Monday, the House Appropriations and Finance Committee sent the General Appropriation Act (HB 2 substitute) to the House floor on a unanimous vote. Democrats and Republicans commented on the fairness and balance contained in the budget and were laudatory of chair Patty Lundstrom’s leadership. We expect the House to send HB 2 to the Senate by Wednesday of this week.
Not included in the budget bill at this time are significant expenditures , among other items, for the “pandemic relief” package of bills ($402 million) and a bill to contribute $325 million to help replenish the Unemployment Insurance Fund (SB 377 – Munoz). These appropriations are contained in separate legislation. Assuming passage of these and other one time appropriations, the state’s reserve will be reduced from 23.9% to 22.0%, still well over $1 billion.
- Economic Development: $5 million for Tourism marketing; $17.5 million for LEDA (more expected in the capital outlay bill) and $7 million for JTIP.
- Public Education: increases $175 million to $3.39 billion – a 5.5% increase. Additional money is available for extended learning and for an extra 25 days for all at-risk elementary schools and 10 extra days for all K-12 schools.
- Higher Education: funding is increased by $23 million, despite declining enrollment. The opportunity scholarship program is continued at $5 million and $5 million special appropriation is made to the lottery scholarship fund.
- Medicaid – an additional $64 million appropriation is made to replace federal funds, which will support a temporary 10% increase in enrollment. In total, the Medicaid budget is about equal to the total general fund – $7 billion, largely federal funds.
- Early Childhood Education: the Early Childhood Education and Care Department will receive a $22 million increase to expand pre-K, home visiting and to increase provider rates for the family infant and toddler program.
- Public Safety: both the Public Safety and Correction Department budgets remain flat, however, declining inmate populations and vacancy savings allow for 6% salary increases and expansion of some programs like additional recruiting and training.
- Compensation: HB 2 provides for an average 1.5% cost of living increase for all state employees, school and higher education employees.
- Roads: $300 million for state and local roads.