Advancing a Responsible Budget
The 100th day of the legislative session is soon approaching and I’m hopeful that we can still complete our work on time. With many policy discussions concluded, our attention will be focused on the budget as we begin to wrap up the 2017 session.
This week the House and Senate released joint targets for the FY18 budget that begins on July 1. The House, Senate, and Governor have agreed to a total level of spending of $7.245 billion, which is about $14 million lower than the current FY17 budget. With budget targets set, this means that budget subcommittees will now begin constructing each of their budget areas line by line.
While most areas of government will see reductions, we intend to fully fund the additional $40 million promised to K-12 schools earlier this year. Additionally, we will protect key priorities and essential government services from any cuts.
Our budget plan also makes an initial down payment of $20 million to repay the state’s Cash Reserve Account. We will be looking for additional opportunities to increase this initial payment this session and we will pass a plan that fully repays the Cash Reserve before the end of this General Assembly.
This budget outline is a responsible spending plan that takes into the account the fact that revenue estimates may continue to be inaccurate.
Over the last six years, projections from the nonpartisan Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) have fluctuated wildly. In FY12 and FY13, revenues came in much higher than the initial projections and between FY14-FY17, revenues came in much lower than projected. We need to remember that these are estimates. Predicting an accurate revenue picture is something that’s very difficult, and many other states are currently struggling with this same problem as well. We’ll continue to work with the members of the REC and look for ways to make revenue estimates more accurate and predictable going forward.
We sent a bill to the Governor’s desk that will require legislators and legislative staff to contribute more towards their health insurance premiums.
We in the House have passed similar provisions many times since 2009. We have voted to increase health insurance contributions from as little as $50 per month to 25% of the premium per month. Unfortunately, each attempt failed to come up for a vote in the Senate each time.
We took a monumental step to protect unborn life this week with the passage of Senate File 471. This bill prohibits late-term abortions, similar to laws in 23 other states. This bill does allow for exceptions when the life or health of the mother is in danger.
This is a huge incremental step forward for the pro-life cause and we will continue to look for additional opportunities to protect the unborn.
As the session begins to wind down, please stay in touch. Let me know your thoughts as different bills or issues arise. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (515) 281-3521.