Parties Miles Away on Budget

The budget discussion yesterday in the House Ways and Means Committee proved just how far apart the House Democrats and Republicans are in their views of how the state’s fiscal picture should play out.

Republicans voiced concerns that the numerous (25 passed) amendments to the House Democrats’ proposal collectively spend another $100 million on top of an initial $500 million (beyond projected revenues) in the one-year spending plan – severely draining the state’s $1 billion surplus.  They also suggested that the spending levels established, particularly the way the stimulus money is used, will put the state in such dismal shape that taxpayers will be hit hard down the road.

The House Democrats, on the other hand, feel the amended bill simply reflects a different set of priorities than that of their Republican counterparts.  They say much of the state’s reserve will remain intact and that, given our economic climate, it is prudent to hold off on the fiscal year 2011 budget until next session, after revenue revisions are made at the December forecast.

The two parties remain at such odds that the chance of the session going into July was (gasp!) openly suggested.

Of course, it’s only the beginning of a game we’ve seen before with the Senate stripping what the House passes and inserting its own priorities. Thus, we seem to be inevitably headed down the all too familiar path – one that failed two months ago – to conference committee negotiations. 

Before the full House meets today on the budget at approximately 4 p.m., the Ways and Means Committee will hear two other measures, SS 1002 (on the Capital Improvement Board) and SS 1003 (involving public assistance).