Hill budget paves the way for bipartisan compromise

On the final day of the special legislative session, Sen. Andy Hill released an updated budget reaffirming the Senate’s original priorities of fully funding education and protecting the state’s most vulnerable citizens without raising taxes. The new proposal, which was approved by the Senate Ways and Means Committee, made additional compromise steps to adopt positions in the House of Representatives’ original spending plan.

“Our new budget delivers the priorities of the Senate, addresses concerns raised by advocates and shows commitment to reaching a final bipartisan compromise,” said Hill, chair of the Senate Ways and Means committee. “We have the revenue to fully fund education, make major investments in mental health and reduce college tuition. Since the beginning our budget discussions with the House of Representatives have not been about reducing programs — they’ve been about how much government should grow.

“Taxes should be the last resort, not the first response. Raising taxes for the sake of raising taxes is not necessary especially with an economic recovery that is far from reaching everyone statewide. Based on the plan we put forward and the improving state economy it’s clear new taxes aren’t necessary.”

Since the March release of the Senate and House budgets, $482 million has been added to the state revenue forecast for the two-year budget cycle beginning July 1. While still increasing K-12 funding by $1.3 billion, the new Senate budget increased the rate at which college tuition is reduced while making key investments in state parks, public employee compensation and social services. Budget reserves also increase to $1.5 billion, the largest in state history.

“If we passed this budget today, government would continue running: students would continue learning, individuals with developmental disabilities would still get the care they need and state employees would keep coming to work,” said Hill. “We’ve listened to concerns about our budget and addressed the issues that have been brought to us. We have a complete budget that lives within our means. It’s time to pass this budget and go home.

The Legislature is expected to begin a second special legislative session Friday, May 29, which must be called by the governor.