Observations and comments about state government by State Representative Robert W. Pritchard.
After nearly a decade of passing budgets that overspent available revenue, the House appears headed toward developing a balanced budget, making pension payments and setting spending priorities. What’s even more amazing is that decisions are being made in public view and actually involving legislators.
Since I came to the legislature, budgets were developed secretly by the Speaker and presented for quick passage without much study or debate. This year the budgeting process is entirely different.
As you may recall, during March the House passed an estimate of FY2012 revenue (HR 110) and this past week it passed legislation dividing that revenue among the five appropriation committees. The funds were allocated to each general area of the budget based on the percentage spent in each area over the past six years.
Next, the House followed good budgeting practice by setting aside funds to pay the annual obligations of the state for payment of pension, debt, anticipated employee health care and transfers to local units of government and other obligations in five bills (HB 116, HB 117, HB 132, HB 3639 & HB 3697). These items totaled $9.3 billion leaving $23.8 billion for the rest of government operations next year, $400 million less than the current budget.
Since revenue was calculated on the conservative side in the House and may actually be $1 billion more than that, my fellow representatives passed HR 158 which states that extra revenue would be used to pay unpaid bills.
Over the next month, the Speaker has indicated that appropriation committees will go line by line through the budget to set priorities, evaluate program outcomes and allocate available revenue. By allocating revenue for specific programs in the budget, the legislature is fulfilling its constitutional duties and the Governor will have little discretion (like he has had in recent years) to reallocate money.
I encourage you to take a look at the programs in each of the five general areas and let me know your priorities. You have been telling me that the state needs to cut spending just like families, businesses and local government have been doing. Here’s your chance to decide.
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