Budget Whoa’s

The General Assembly convened last week for the short session – the second year of the biennium. Traditionally the second year of the two-year budget passed in the long session is adjusted or tweaked dependent on changes in revenue or needs.

A quick re-cap of the 2011-13 budget that passed lat year:  $19,696,631,208 was appropriated for 2011-12 and $19,943,327,275 was budgeted for 2012-13, a $246,696,067 increase from the first year to the second.

The governor sent over her budget for 2012-13 last week and wants to increase spending to $20,907,086,765, a $1,210,455,557 increase over the 2011-12 budget paid for with tax hikes.

That’s the spending side. The latest revenue reports indicate that there is a $232.5 million surplus for 2011-12 and an additional $21 million projected for 2012-13.  I say we stick with what we’ve got or, in other words, live within our means and continue the fiscal restraint written into the 2011-13 budget.

The House is considering it’s proposal and budget discussions are underway in the Senate.

I think they should keep it short and simple.  They should eliminate the upcoming $74 million discretionary cuts required of local school districts and restore $25 million in cuts made last year,  working towards eliminating the “flex-cuts” put in place in 2009 altogether. In order to ensure that Medicaid continues to deliver services, they need to put $150 Million towards an expected shortfall.  There are some minor re-adjustments to ensure equity across programs that don’t require additional money and those should be taken care of.  The remaining funds should be put into the state’s savings account.  Then they need to put the lid back on this state-spending box, nail it shut and go home.

The decisions the new leadership made in the first year were good ones.  They delivered on their campaign promises, they cut taxes, made government smaller, less invasive and more accountable.  They’ve been criticized and attacked for some of those decisions and most of the criticism has been over-blown, exaggerated or just plain false.  They made the tough decisions when they passed the two-year budget.

Stick to the plan.  It’s a good one.