Legislative update: Budgets, budgets, budgets

Yesterday marked the 86th day of the legislative session. Another important legislative deadline occurred last week, when all bills from the opposite chamber must have passed out of their respective policy committee to remain “alive” this session. Yesterday was another deadline in which all bills must pass out of the opposite chamber’s fiscal committees to remain alive.

House releases and passes operating budget

Last week, the House Democrats released their proposed state operating budget for the 2017-2019 biennium (HB 1067). Their plan spends a total of $44.6 billion, while the Senate plan passed last week spends a total of $43.0 billion. While the Senate and House budgets spend similar amounts on education to comply with the State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision (House spends $1.9 billion and the Senate spends $1.8 billion in the next biennium), their funding plans are starkly different. The Senate relies on increased revenues from a rebounding economy, cutting existing programs and reworking the state property tax. The House relies on raising new revenue to fund new and existing social safety net programs in addition to complying with the McCleary decision.

On Friday, the House passed their proposed operating budget on a strict party-line vote, 50 Democrats voting in support and 48 Republicans voting against. During passage of the budget, dozens of amendments offered by House Republicans were rejected.

On Monday, the House Finance Committee heard the House Democrat revenue proposal, including a capital gains tax and in increase in the real estate excise tax. WAWG signed in opposed along with other agricultural groups and business. It passed it out of committee yesterday. House Democrats have stated that they do not plan to take a floor vote on their spending plan until budget negotiations are complete.

Senate releases and passes proposed capital budget

Last week, the Senate released their proposed capital budget for 2017-2019, which was passed by the Senate unanimously. The capital budget includes appropriations made to state and local agencies for building and construction projects, such as public schools, universities, parks and prisons. The House will be releasing their proposed capital budget today and will be holding a public hearing on April 6.