House Passes $27.3 Billion Budget

‘CONSERVATIVE’ BUDGET A FULL BILLION DOLLARS BIGGER THAN LAST YEAR’S

Late Tuesday night the House passed by far the largest budget in state history, as it usually does this time of year. The spending plan totals $27.3 billion – a $1 billion increase over last year’s budget. The vote was 113-5.

One significant amendment that passed during yesterday’s debate eliminated the Competitive Grants Review Committee – a committee that doles out money for special “community”-oriented projects around the state. Ways and Means chairman Brian White said that the proviso had been deleted as a result of the governor’s opposition; he asked the House instead to direct the $6 million (via a separate proviso) to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism for parks.

A number of alternate amendments for this funding were proposed, one of which would have sent the money to the county transportation committees (or CTCs) for roads. That amendment failed 101-13. Ultimately, the money was directed to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, as White had proposed – sending the money to counties where legislative delegations could decide on how to spend it. That’s hardly an improvement from the initial Competitive Grants proposal – the money will now be doled out as special favors at the county level instead of statewide.

Rep. Mac Toole sponsored an amendment that would have eliminated the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (STIB) and moved its functions to the Department of Transportation. He argued that the STIB is “nothing but a political machine.” That amendment failed as well, as did a series of amendments that would have converted the budget to a two-year appropriations bill.

House majority leader Gary Simrill praised the House plan as a “conservative” budget that “reigns [sic] in government spending” – this despite the fact that many state agencies saw substantial budget increases and overall spending increased by $1 billion. The budgetary priority, as in past years, was in spending every last penny.

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