Tuesday, April 07, 2015

We're Back in the Saddle Again.  The Legislature has returned from its Easter/Passover break and the next two weeks are going to be extremely hectic with the deadline for all of the finance and tax bills to be out of their last committee and referred to the floor just over two weeks away.  The Senate Education Finance Committee announced its schedule for the next ten days at this morning's meeting.  The remainder of this week will be dedicated to hearing bills heard in the Education Committee that were referred to Education Finance due to fiscal implications contained in the bills along with measures that either create new programs with appropriations or increase the appropriations for existing programs.  The formal funding proposal for the division will be posted online next Tuesday, with review and testimony taking place next Wednesday, and final mark-up of the bill taking place Thursday with amendments offered.  The bill will then go to the full Finance Committee and the Tax Committee, which would take place the week of April 20.  The schedule for the House bill has not been announced yet, but I assume it will be similar.  The only difference is that the House bill will go to the House Tax Committee and then Ways and Means as it makes its way to the House floor.  The last week of April and the first week of May will involve marathon floor sessions at which all of the appropriations bills will be passed.  Conference committees to reconcile differences between the House and Senate bills will likely start the first week of May.  With the curtain on the 2015 legislative regular session slated to end on midnight May 18, that would mean a mad rush to the finish line.

Shock and "Aw, Shucks."  That's how I'm describing the education budget target situation in  the House and Senate.  I reported when I blogged last that the House budget target for E-12 was $157 million, less than 25% of the Governor's target of $694 million.  The Senate released its budget target on Friday, March 27, and they announced a target of $350 million, just over 50% of the Governor's target.  Hence, the "shock" of the House budget target being so low and the "aw, shucks" that the Senate budget wasn't higher so that the reconciliation of the final budget target could be pushed up as high as possible.  I hate to overreact in these instances.  Chronologically, we're nearing the end of the session, but in terms of the work of the session, we're basically in the third inning with a lot of game to be played.  That said, it is disappointing in a year in which we are looking at a very healthy budget situation that the targets could be higher.

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