Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I never knew I had so many “friends” until I became the lead House Republican on health care issues as the ranking member on the Health Care and Wellness Committee. I'm not kidding, folks are coming out of the woodwork! I was never this popular in high school.
However, that popularity doesn't always transfer to other committees. This week in the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, we got our first glimpse of the House Democrats' plans to close the nearly $500 million budget gap for the remainder of this fiscal year (which ends June 30). While I commend them for making some very difficult choices, the truth is, their proposal is not really a supplemental budget. It doesn't completely fill the budget hole, which will require another “supplemental budget” to be drafted toward the end of session. A more thorough proposal would be far more responsible.
I'm grateful that up to this point, House Republicans have been able to keep the levy equalization money – money that so many of our rural school districts need – off the chopping block. But I fear that the other side may try to hold this money hostage in future negotiations. (Stay tuned and see below.)
I also have serious concerns about a portion of their budget that retroactively takes money away from school districts that has already been budgeted, and in many cases, has already been used to hire teachers! How are school districts supposed to budget in the future if the Legislature pulls this kind of gimmick? Our school districts should not be punished for budgeting responsibly. It's not their fault that our state has the budget problems that it has.
If you'd like to see some of the more interesting “wrangling” that went on in the committee hearing, click here and scroll forward to about the 45 minute mark. You'll actually be able to see one of the members of the House Democrats allude to the fact that levy equalization could be placed on the chopping block if we (Republicans) don't want to retroactively take money away from school districts. Interesting stuff. We'll see how this all plays out on Monday when the bill comes to the floor for debate and final passage.
I'll update you next week on the House budget, as well as a proposal that House Republicans plan on putting forward. The stark contrasts are startling.