As legislators look to correct mistakes during the first special session, local lawmakers are weighing in on the second special session of the year.
Sen. Ryan Gatti, District 36, says it is important to fix these errors so there is a true picture of the upcoming budget.
“We are working hard to correct unintended consequences of the first special session,” he said. “I insist that the expenses in the budget must be forecasted accurately. The last few years, the expenses were purposefully underestimated. This horrible practice resulted in drastic cuts to higher ed and hospitals only 45 days into the fiscal year.”
Rep. Gene Reynolds, District 10, says that with the package of bills that passed out of the House, it should raise roughly $300 million in revenue to plug a $600 million shortfall. However, with about that much remaining, that unfortunately means cuts to higher ed and hospitals., he said.
“That’s what you do,” he said. “You don’t have a choice. You have to have a balanced budget. So, if you only raise $300 million that means that $300 million will be cut. At the start of the special session TOPS was $155 million short, Health and Hospitals was $174 million short, higher ed was $54 million short, and K-12 education was $75 million short. Those are the only areas that you can constitutionally cut.”
The bills that have passed out of the House is a package of bills that will raise revenue, he says, and they include House Bills 35, 24, 29, 25, 20, 53, 47 and 51.
“Everybody wants to make sure that higher ed, TOPS and the hospitals are funded,” he said.
“The Revenue Recognizing Group said at the beginning of the special session that we would be $600 million short. As of Thursday, we have officially raised around $211 million, and that means pending the Senate. It’s passed out of the House.”
Gatti explained the 2015-16 projected budget was more than $1.9 billion off the actual costs and revenue. Agreeing with Reynolds, Gatti says legislators want a true picture of what the budget for the end of this fiscal year and 2016-17 will look like.
“We are making sure to get a true projection of costs for the 2016-17 budget so we can have a true baseline moving forward,” he said. “With this practice – cuts are made before the budget is implemented – not after the budget year starts. It’s a big change in how we budget, and it’s really just being honest with where we are and how we fund government.”
Reynolds filed a bill in the package, HB20, that “provides relative to the apportionment ratio for purposes of computing corporate income tax and provides for the sourcing of sales.”
Gatti filed SB1, which would restore exemptions for school events and sales. It is scheduled to be heard by the Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Monday.