Legislators Deal With Budget Behind Closed Doors

State lawmakers continued to mull the differences between the governor’s proposed budget and another version from Senate Republicans. But Tuesday, nobody was ready to say how they’ll vote.

House Democrats have been working on a budget that would reverse some of the cuts suggested by Senate Republicans

Finance Committee Chair Craig Fitzhugh briefed House Democrats in a closed door meeting that lasted an hour. Democrats didn’t make a decision on the new proposal, but Fitzhugh says his party will take a vote soon .

“We’re…in a good negotiating process with the Senate right now, to try to work out some differences on some proposals that are still really fluid… You know, we’re down to the short rows now.”

Last week Senate Republicans put forward an alternative state budget that kills a 3 percent bonus for state employees.

Although Democrats wouldn’t confirm the specific differences with the Republican plan, lobbyists at Capitol Hill suggested that any significant difference would involve restoring some level of the state employee bonus – perhaps as little as one percent.

House Democrats are expected to meet Wednesday morning (May 19) to vote on whether to pursue the new budget version.

WEB EXTRA
Rep. Fitzhugh generalized in his comments about differences:


“I think we’ve… crossed the mountain and now we’re in the foothills. I think we’re making progress. I don’t know how quick it will be. But we’re making progress. Lines of communications between the House and Senate are…wide open.”

The Senate Finance Committee’s Budget Subcommittee met throughout the day but took little concrete action, merely reviewing suggested improvements by individual senators, a formalized “wish list.”

How far are the two sides apart? Fitzhugh again:

“In the scheme of things, in ….the thirty billion dollar budget, we’re talking about a few percentage points. But in the final analysis we’re probably talking about a hundred, two hundred million dollar swing, one way or another. So, half of that, or so….”

The comment “half of that” leaves the Democratic leadership – and the Republican leadership – a lot of leeway in crafting a compromise budget.

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