Welcome to Week 21 of the 2015 Legislative Session
Week 1 of the 2nd special session has come and gone. On Monday, the Governor began meeting with the budget writers and has apparently been meeting with them regularly. There is not a budget deal yet and as far as the rumor mill goes, no agreement on the size of the 'box', i.e. the amount they agree to spend, but discussions are occurring and one can always hope that the various sides are able to come together soon.
On June 1st, the House released a new operating budget that was heard on June 2nd. Although the spending level came down by approximately $450m in General Fund - State dollars, and the new revenue assumptions came down by $917m (by no longer including raising certain B&O taxes and eliminating or modifying selected tax preferences), the House and Senate budgets are still roughly $668m+ apart in terms of spending on programs and job investments. Whether the House can agree to go down or the Senate agree to go up remains to be seen, but most would conclude that each will have to continue to move closer to the other!
The Appropriations Committee was scheduled to "exec" the new budget on Wednesday, June 3rd; however, the committee meeting was cancelled and it has not been rescheduled. One major difference between the House budget that passed and the new budget being proposed is the inclusion of a 9% Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant restoration! Other TANF items were taken out (e.g. child support pass-through, rapid re-housing), but for folks advocating for restoration of the 15% cut made to TANF in 2011 (that brought the grant down to $478/month for a family of 3), this was a very welcomed and positive step. A couple of changes that were not so positive were the removal of funding for the Homeless Student Stability Act (which did not pass, but $2m had been allocated for services) and funding for Breakfast After the Bell (which also did not pass).
On tap for next week is a House Finance Committee meeting, at which time a number of bills are expected to be voted on and a recently introduced bill, HB 2263, will be heard. HB 2263 gives counties taxing authority to generate revenue for specific housing and services purposes. At this point, it is not known if the bill will move out of the Finance Committee, out of the House, through the Senate, but it will be heard on Monday, June 8th at 11:00.
A new, interesting concern the legislature has never had to deal with - The US Open begins in just 10 days on June 15th, so some are raising questions about lack of hotel space, traffic, etc. It's looking less and less likely the legislature will adjourn before it begins, but I guess we can never be too sure!
Have a good week and send positive budget thoughts to Olympia!
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Have a good weekend!
Public Policy Director