Both houses worked vigorously during the week trying to resolve differences on their respective versions of the 2019-2020 budget bills. Currently, both chambers are proposing a $2.9 billion appropriation for the next biennium, with the spread between the two houses widening, from a week ago, to the currently profiled at $26.2 million .
Specifically, the areas of substantial difference between the two houses on LSRA expenditures are: K-12 education, $21.2 million; ENDOW, $14.7 million; school capital construction, $15.8 million; and penitentiary capital construction, $20 million.
The Joint Appropriations Committee cut $2.2 million out of the tourism budget at the start of the session. The senate amended the $2.2 million back in on a second reading amendment with a 20-10 vote. In the house the mirror second reading amendment failed on a 30-29 vote. A third reading amendment to restore $2 million was brought forward on 3rd reading and it passed the house 36-24. A conference committee will meet this week to work out the difference between the senate and house versions.
Senate File 40, the Commercial Air Service Improvement Act, has passed the senate and House Appropriations Committee. It will be heard on the house floor this week. Senate File 100, the Economic Diversification for Broadband Services Act, is in the same position. There has been a lot of discussion and work done on this bill. The current version of the bill represents a compromise with industry and all are currently in agreement with it.
Besides the differences in funding philosophy between the two sides, a serious debate over spending reductions for K-12 is underway, as members of the Joint Conference Committee battle to resolve their differences with the hope of being able to submit a budget to the Governor early this week. The threat of this 20-day budget session being extended into next week looms large at this point.
The 2018 budget session is scheduled to finish up this Saturday, March 10. The legislature does have 3 days left over from last year’s general session and there have been rumblings of the session going through next Wednesday, March 14. If the two sides cannot agree on the Joint Conference Committee’s proposed budget, a new committee will be appointed.