Preparing, debating, and approving the state budget is the most important thing we do as legislators each year. I can’t understate how seriously my colleagues take this process. As conservatives, we begin with the premise that this is your money – not the government’s. We wish Congress began with the same attitude.
The process began late last year when the House Ways and Means subcommittees began taking testimony and writing a budget that fits our priorities. At one point last fall, there was about $400 million in “new” money and more than $1 billion in agency requests. Needless to say, our conservative budget writers worked to separate the wheat from the chaff in those requests.
The Ways and Means Committee approved a $23.9 billion budget two weeks ago, with $6.9 billion being total state appropriations. (The other funds come in the form of Federal pass-through dollars to school districts, for example, or the “other funds” budget that includes items like the college tuition parents pay directly to public colleges.)
It is important to note that our budget is balanced and falls in line with the proposed “inflation plus population growth” spending cap that the House has approved on numerous occasions.
Here are few notable spending items that will probably be of interest to you:
- $6.5 million to continue providing ID Theft monitoring to those affected by the 2012 security breach at the Department of Revenue.
- $23 million to provide a 1.5 percent state employee pay raise.
- $57 million increase in state health insurance that will fund the entire premium increase, but includes a minor increase in co-pay rates. About $40 million of this will be given to school districts to offset about 70 percent of their cost increase.
- We have a fully funded Reserve Fund, required by the Constitution.
- The “Base Student Cost” increased to $2,120. This includes a new EFA formula for distributing the money that places a greater emphasis on poverty and other students requiring specialized instruction.
- $17.7 million in new funding for charter schools.
- $12 million for new school buses.
- Fully funded the state’s college scholarship funds, and added $4 million to promote efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability for our colleges.
- We continue to reject the radical federal expansion of Obamacare while funding the Healthy Outcomes Initiative to build a true health safety net in our state.
- We fund new law enforcement officers for SLED, the Highway Patrol, and DNR.
Obviously the budget has literally hundreds of other spending priorities, and you can see all of the budget documents yourself. There, you can find the spreadsheets, the final budget (at the very bottom of the page), and various PowerPoint presentations that summarize the budget and expand on this update.
The debate on the state budget will begin Monday, March 10 at 1 p.m. You can watch the debate live at www.scstatehouse.gov. I’ll write more about a few of these notable items in next week’s update, as well as updating you on any changes the House makes to the budget during the debate.