Friday, April 17, 2009

House Gives Final OK to FY 2010 Budget

The House overwhelmingly gave final approval this morning to a bipartisan budget compromise that closes a $300 shortfall in the fiscal year 2010 state spending plan.

Lawmakers agreed to cut spending by about $77 million and raise about $255 million in additional revenue for the state.

Included in the spending cuts are a requirement that many state employees take up to eight unpaid days off in the next fiscal year.

The so-called "Long Bill" also provides that Medicaid fees paid to doctors and hospitals would be reduced by $58 million and transfers about $28 million from K-12 education to higher education.

The measure also authorizes the use of about $35 million in money from the state's tobacco tax revenue, which is ordinarily allocated to health promotion and efforts to prevent smoking, for general fund purposes.

A separate bill closes a property tax exemption applicable to senior citizens for one year. That measure, which would be effective for one year, is expected to raise about $90 million in revenue.

House approval of SB 259 is not the end of the General Assembly's work on next year's budget and other fiscal matters. The "Long Bill" must return to the Senate for consideration.

In addition, Democrats are likely to propose a bill eliminating sales tax exemptions for cigarettes and vending machine sales. That bill, if enacted, would raise about $38 million in revenue each year.

The House-approved budget avoids any additional reductions in higher education spending for next fiscal year.

Gov. Bill Ritter warned earlier in the week that cuts to spending on the state's colleges and universities might place the state at risk of losing access to more than $700 million in federal economic stimulus dollars authorized by the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.