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May/June 2010 Newsletter

Budget Battles

The last few days of the spring legislative session are typically full of uncertainty, drama, highs and lows.  The end of the spring 2010 legislative session was certainly no exception.

There was something different this time, however.  A group of rank and file legislators came together to propose not just budget cuts, but true reforms to the budget process.  These ten House and Senate members stood together at a press conference the week before we adjourned to propose these difficult but necessary measures.  I was proud to join with my colleagues in this effort.  We even got some television coverage at:

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news%2Fpolitics&id=7459476  &

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/politics&id=7461535

The reform measures we proposed were adopted by the legislature and are now pending before the Governor. They include a requirement for quarterly financial statements to be produced by the Governor during the fiscal year.  This is a reform that has been pushed for by many fiscal watchdog groups over the years including The Civic Federation.

The other significant reform is a shift from our current budgeting system – which simply takes last years budget and adds to it or subtracts from it – to a system of budgeting for outcomes.  “Budgeting for outcomes” requires more extensive review of existing programs and spending to determine whether we are getting the value we want from the expenditure of taxpayer dollars and how to better meet our spending priorities.

The rank and file legislators also proposed an additional $1.3 billion in spending reductions and savings for the upcoming fiscal year.  With over $6 billion in unpaid bills, these cuts are necessary to get our fiscal house in order.  It hardly does our schools, service providers and vendors any good to promise a certain level of payment and then fail to make that payment because we simply don’t have the cash.  Better to be honest about what we can afford and make the payments on time.

Our proposed cuts were almost all rejected by fellow legislators (from both parties) in various House Committees when they were presented.  But we are committed to continuing the work we began to identify reductions and savings for the long term.

Given the lack of consensus among legislators about how to address our budget problems, I believe the budget that was adopted was as good as it can be at this time.  But I don’t intend to walk away from the problems simply because the budget has been adopted.  I will continue to work with my colleagues over the course of the year to identify meaningful reforms and savings that can help put us on a path toward greater fiscal health and responsibility.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and reactions.

 

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