Proposed Budgets for FY2017-18 Far Apart; Timely Resolution Uncertain
As we enter the penultimate week of the 2017 Legislative Session, the next state budget is still very much up in the air. The House and Senate spending plans are effectively $4 billion apart. The House budget totals $81.237 billion, and the Senate budget comes in at $83.164 billion, but that does not include almost $2 billion in university tuition that is usually included in the budget (and is included by the House).
Some of the major differences include environmental funding, economic development programs, tourism marketing, the amount of local property taxes for public school funding, universities, member projects, and state employee pay raises. The Senate also funds 113,563 state positions, 1,335 more than the House. The House generally appropriates less money for agency operations.
Conference negotiations have not yet begun and behind the scenes negotiations have not gone smoothly. This morning (April 25), the House convened a special meeting of the Appropriations Committee to pass what it called a continuation budget. The means the same budget as last year, with some necessary changes and all non-recurring appropriations taken out. This was portrayed as a “take it or leave it” offer to the Senate, and the Senate President has subsequently said they will leave it.
There are rumblings of a deal on a basic budget framework and allocations for the various appropriations subcommittees could be released soon, setting the stage for a budget conference. The state constitution requires a 72-hour review period after the conference report is printed before it may be voted on. The conference report cannot be amended; if one chamber votes it down, they must start over.
The Legislature is running out of time to pass the budget before the session ends on May 5. If it fails to do so, lawmakers will have to come back in an extended or special session to pass a budget before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.
As the Legislature prepares to go into budget conference, or pushes it to a later date, this Budget Watch examines the two spending plans and highlights some of the differences that are causing the conflict.