Dear Friends and Neighbors,
You may have heard by now that the governor called the Legislature into a special session. The House and the Senate budget writers are now in negotiations over different plans to close the $5.3 billion budget shortfall. I’m disappointed we are in this spot, because we knew long before session began we would be tackling a multi-billion gap between spending and revenue. I want to walk through the various proposals with you.
The House majority’s budget depends on the lease of the state’s liquor distribution business. I believe this is just another budget gimmick. Since the proposal came out, the governor has refuted the revenue projections, and I believe it actually prevents true privatization of the liquor business. This budget proposal also refuses to truly prioritize the activities of the state. It avoids meaningful choices between education and health care, because of the fantasy business proposal.
The Senate’s budget proposal does deserve some credit, as it spends less than we’re bringing in. However, it continues to support costly social services at the expense of education. It also pushes off $240 million in K-12 apportionments to schools. This shifts dollars from one day to the next, but that also happens to be from one fiscal year to the next.
I supported a proposal in the House Ways and Means Committee which provides true reform, is more sustainable and truly prioritizes. It puts constitutionally mandated education, public safety and the most vulnerable citizens at the top of the budget priorities for funding. The House Republican proposal does not rely on gimmicks, like leasing the state’s liquor distribution center, or delaying K-12 education funding, or counting the same money twice, as we see in the other proposals. It also makes the tough choice of ending expensive and relatively new social programs while preserving funding for programs that help the most vulnerable – seniors and the developmentally disabled. Unfortunately, this proposal is off the table because it never made it out of the House committee.
On another note, we have tried four times on the House floor to move legislation to reform the state’s workers’ compensation system. The votes exist to pass this important job-preserving proposal that will save the state money and does not cut any benefits to workers. Nine Democrats signed on to a bill reforming the system, and all 42 members on the Republican side support the measure. However, the House majority leadership will not allow it to come up for debate on the House floor. It breaks my heart to visit small businesses and reflect on how little the Legislature actually accomplished during the session to improve the business climate for employers and employees who work hard and want to improve their community.
Please continue to contact my office with questions, comments or concerns. My legislative assistant, Jennifer, would be happy to set up a meeting with me and you, or your group, as the special session allows.
It’s an honor to serve you.