Serving on the House and Ways committee gives me much more insight into our state finances than I had the first several years I served in the House. Even when I was on other committees, I viewed the budget as our biggest responsibility in office.
During my time in office, I’ve been known as one of the top fiscal conservatives in the State House and oftentimes sustain more Governor Vetoes than most my colleagues. The budget is complex and the budget is always imperfect. I wrote about that years ago and it still rings true.
What started as a very promising budget in January has changed – dramatically. The General Assembly will return September 14th for two weeks to finalize a budget that was put on hold earlier this year. We will be faced with many difficult decisions.
From The State Newspaper
This year was shaping up to be a boon for many state employees and agencies, some long neglected since the Great Recession led to massive budget cuts.
State economists had projected legislators would have nearly $2 billion more to spend this year over last year — amounting to the largest annual revenue growth in state history. The money would go toward fixing state prisons and raising teacher and state employee pay and a host of other priorities.
But that was before the COVID-19 outbreak that led to lost jobs, skyrocketing unemployment and a giant decline in tourist travel and economic activity.
Now state budget forecasters say most of the extra cash lawmakers had hoped to spend in the budget ending June 30, 2021, has been cut back dramatically — by an estimated $1.2 billion — leaving lawmakers with about $700 million to spend in the upcoming budget, based on current projections. And this fall the budget could hit another snag if the economy struggles more resulting in the downward revision of that $700 million projection.
What does that outlook mean for some of the costliest budget items included in the House’s spending plan adopted in March?