This past week the Appropriations Committee approved, unanimously, a budget compromise for the next two years starting July 1, 2013. It was approved with a two-thirds majority of both the house and the senate and has been sent to the Governor to sign. The Governor has said he will veto the budget, but if those who voted for it this past week continue to do so, the legislature will override the Governor’s veto and the budget will become law. If a few legislators change their mind and vote “no” then the budget will not pass. The Appropriations Committee would have to reconvene to develop a new budget and we would face a shutdown of state government until an agreement can be reached.
The appropriations committee is made up of both senators and representatives from both parties. When they first convened in January they needed to take up a supplemental budget to fund current state operations due to a shortfall in revenues (money paid to the state from various sources of income tax, sales and other taxes). Once they passed the supplemental budget they began working on the budget proposed by the Governor for the next two years. They held public hearings which lasted many days because the Governor’s budget proposed major changes that would impact businesses, towns and individuals because of the programs which were to be eliminated.
The committee worked many weekends in addition to weekdays and nights to reach a compromise budget they all could agree on. It restores about two-thirds of the revenue sharing with towns and restores some programs such as the Drugs for the Elderly and Medicare Savings Plan. It funds the state share to education with a plan to increase this yearly until we reach the previously promised 55 percent. It reduces or eliminates funding for many programs. The budget has to be balanced. To do this the budget will include a temporary increase in sales tax to 5.5 percent (we have increased our sales tax to 6 percent for a period in the past). It will also increase meals and lodging taxes by one percent. Our sales taxes and lodging taxes are below the average of other New England states.
I believe the budget is a reasonable compromise and hope the Governor signs it. If he doesn’t, I hope my fellow legislators will remain in support of the budget and override his veto.
I would be glad to answer specific budget questions anyone has. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.