Working out the state budget for the new fiscal year


The Legislature is plodding along through its early days in Juneau, which is typical for the early part of the annual session.

Out of the 1,000 pieces of legislation proposed this year, fewer than 50 bills have made it to the governor's desk.

After much debate on where there may or may not be waste in school district budgets, the House voted 18-19 to not pass it.

Senate and House Democrats hope to halt an education funding formula from passing this session. Republicans in the House withheld their support, so the early funding bill passed without the appropriation.

The first amendment to HB 287 came from Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, who didn't want the funding vehicle to be the CBR or the SBR.

The New Mexico House has voted to increase the minimum salaries for public school teachers.

If enacted, the bill would allow members of the public to recommend instructional materials for consideration by the state or their district school board, which would then be required to allow the publisher of those materials to submit a bid for evaluation. Gary Stevens' SB 131, is pending in the Senate Finance Committee.

It would also need approval from Gov. Susana Martinez.

In all, the Senate-approved budget would increase general fund spending by $259 million - or about 4 percent - for the fiscal year starting July 1.

Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican who voted for the bill Thursday, described the situation as a "conundrum" as lawmakers decide how to handle the issue. Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner and Sen.

Before the vote, Baca tried to add the Baby Briana expansion bill to the crime package, which would make child abuse resulting in death a life sentence regardless of the child's age.

The state's money managers insist there should be at least $1 billion in savings at all times as a buffer for emergencies or short-term unexpected revenue shortfalls. School cash balances will also see $5 million to replenish from the previous year's budget shortfall that lead to cuts and sweeping.

"We must to make sure that educators have the resources needed to support students".

The House doesn't argue with using Permanent Fund earnings - it passed its own version of that plan previous year, in HB 115, but the House Majority wants a broad-based tax of some kind to eliminate the annual deficit, House leaders have said.

The state fiscal year begins July 1st and the overall state-funded portion of the budget is expected to be almost $6 billion. "I am confident that if the Senate agrees the CBR is the best mechanism, they will do that".