Last Friday night the Senate approved its operating budget with a bipartisan 30-18 vote. The House is expected to release its counter proposal on Wednesday. As with most budgets there are good and bad components of the Senate plan.
On the plus side it keeps the promise made to taxpayers in 2010 that several temporary taxes would expire this year and doesn’t rely on any general tax increases. There are also several strong provisos linking spending to performance (including these budget studies). The Senate budget also makes the actuarial recommended pension payment (keeping the state’s pension liability from worsening) and assumes adoption of SB 5851 to create an optional defined contribution pension plan for state employees. Along with restricting future spending growth (non-education) with the original I-601 growth factor (population plus inflation), the Senate budget also avoids spending from the constitutional emergency reserve account. While all budgets make assumptions, the Senate budget is the first one in recent memory that if its assumptions hold would not result in a deficit in the next budget (2015-17) and would comply with the state’s new four-year balanced budget requirement.
Of concern are some of the details in the balance sheet including various fund transfers, redirection of dedicated accounts (such as the I-900 performance audit funds), reversions in excess of the small unrestricted ending fund balance, extension of a questionable nursing home bed tax and reliance on Obamcare’s terms penciling out.
With the regular session scheduled to end on April 28, lawmakers have their work cut out for them to come to agreement on a budget than balances without resorting to job killing tax increases (and yes extension of a temporary tax not only breaks a promise but is a tax increase).
We’ll have a review of the House budget after we have time read it. Unfortunately that likely won’t before the House holds a public hearing on its proposal since that hearing is scheduled for just a few hours after the budget details are to be released. Kind of makes one wonder what that purpose of the public hearing is for since it’s unlikely those testifying will have had time to read and understand the budget beforehand (or lawmakers for that matter).