Last Friday the House approved its 2013-15 state operating budget proposal on a party-line 54-43 vote. The only lawmaker to cross-party lines was Rep. Stonier (D) who voted against the budget saying:
“The budget does a lot of things right in terms of funding education. My concern now is we’re making some taxes that were temporary permanent. We need to look at scaling things in so we can keep our promises to taxpayers.”
As with most budgets there are good and bad components of the House plan.
On the plus side there are several strong provisos linking spending to performance and it doesn’t raid the State Auditor’s dedicated I-900 performance audit funds. The House budget also makes the actuarial recommended pension payment (keeping the state’s pension liability from worsening) and requires a study for the replacement of the state’s antiquated financial management system. The proposal also doesn’t assume reversions in its balance sheet. Like the Senate budget, if its assumptions hold the House proposal 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 greatest concern is the decision to break trust with taxpayers by permanently extending taxes that Democrat lawmakers promised would expire this year, relying on $1.3 billion in tax increases, assuming transfer of all of the constitutionally protected emergency reserve account (this will require a 3/5 vote), extending a questionable hospital bed tax, reliance on Obamacare’s terms penciling out and spending the most and saving the least of the three budgets proposed.
The Senate previously adopted its version of the operating budget with a bipartisan 30-18 vote. Lawmakers have less than two weeks to come to an agreement and approve a budget without resorting to a special session to finish their work.
The House has scheduled a public hearing for Friday morning at 8 a.m. on part of its $1.3 billion tax increase proposal. We plan to release economic modeling showing the potential impact on jobs of that tax proposal soon.
In the meantime, we agree with the comments made by Rep. Stonier (D) – Lawmakers need to keep spending in check so they can keep their promises to taxpayers.