Thursday, October 22, 2009

House Passes Budget Bill

In a debate that lasted past 11:30 p.m. the state House of Representatives on Thursday voted 37 to 31, to pass a budget bill would slice $257 million from state agencies and public schools and colleges, all in an effort to eliminate the $650 million-and-growing deficit in this year’s budget.

I don't have the roll call yet for House Bill 17 but the bill passed with most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans voting against. The bill goes on the Senate, which though controlled by Democrats is more conservative than the House.

The cuts in the bill range from 2 percent to 7.6 percent. However, the measure would soften the blow to public schools by using other revenue, including federal stimulus funds, to replace state money.

Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, said the budget bill contains a provision that would allow school districts to get reimbursed for their property insurance premiums from a school building fund. Egolf said the premium for Santa Fe Public Schools is about $2.4 million. This, he said, would more than offset the $2 million budget cut in the bill. This provision is similar to SB24, which passed the Senate on Thursday.

Egolf said the provision is designed to keep the schools afloat during the current school year. He said it will be necessary for the Legislature to come up with new revenue sources — such as tax increases — in the regular session that begins in January.

The budget bill contained a slap to Gov. Bill Richardson. It would require the governor to cut salaries and benefits of 80 so-called exempt employees. The bill calls for reductions of 7.6 percent for agencies under Richardson’s control.

Hopefully this circus will close its tent tomorrow (Friday.)

I bid you goodnight.