The supplemental budget is the big story today at the Legislature. Both the House and Senate pass the budget on a second vote, but Senators and Representatives had to trudge through scores of amendments. 43 in the House and 29 in the Senate. Because their heads are swimming after three days of budget debate, they take the day off from the budget Thursday and tackle it again Friday.
One budget amendment would take away the $55 million appropriated toward a new engineering building at UW costing a total of $115 million. Representative Keith Gingery says it's a hard sell to constituents after spending a year finding $60 million in cuts. Also in this budget process is a request by Superintendent of Public Instruction, Cindy Hill, for $6.3 million for her new office in the Barrette Building. She's requesting 15 staff members and five regional conferences for teachers.
The Governor is recommending to the Joint Appropriations Committee a budget for Hill of $2.3 million and 12 staffers in the remaining 17 months in the budget cycle. Hill had a budget of $2.6 million with eight assistants.
House Appropriations Chairman, Steve Harshman, doesn't know how much Hill will end up with. That's up to the full Legislature, but he thinks the whole process, even with a new director of the Education Department, will not cost more.
Every year, whether a budget session or a general session with a mini-budget, there's a philosophical debate about where to put extra savings. Either into the Permanent Minerals Trust Fund, where investment returns help pay the cost of government or the coffee cans floating around that are more accessible when you need cash to balance the budget.
Here, permanent rules. By constitution, 1 ½ percent of severance taxes have to go into the permanent fund. In 2005, by law, the Legislature added another one percent into the PMT, but there always that push to divert that extra one percent to those coffee cans in the sky.