Democracy Rising: The Legislature’s New Budget

Posted by By at 28 June, at 18 : 13 PM Print

by RTC Sponsor, Tim Potts of Democracy Rising

Think of the Emperor’s new clothes, and you’ll have an idea of what’s coming below.

Click here for the current spreadsheet for the state budget as negotiated among House and Senate Republicans. Democrats were not part of the negotiations. The legislature’s budget begins on page 14. Altogether, it will cost taxpayers $1,221,180 per work day to operate our legislature next year if this budget passes.

Question:

  • Do you think you’re getting your money’s worth?

If you’ve never seen a state budget spreadsheet, be prepared for a wealth of information presented in a way that is efficient but largely uninformative to the eye of ordinary citizens. For example, the final column on the right gives increases and decreases but not the percentage of the increases and cuts. So have a calculator ready.

The Senate

Senators have budgeted:

  • a 6.2% increase in the line item for “Senators’ Salaries,” increasing the cost from
    $6,340,000 to $6,734,000. Remember: These are the people who think everyone else
    in state and local governments should freeze their pay or take a cut.
  • a 402% increase for the Senate Appropriations Committee from $498,000 to $2,498,000. There ought to be an explanation for this.
  • an overall decrease of 4/10ths of 1 percent for the total Senate budget.

The House

Representatives have budgeted:

  • a 44.9% increase in “Members’ Compensation,” increasing the cost from $17,656,000
    to $25,584,000. Remember: These are the people who think everyone else in state and
    local governments should freeze their pay or take a cut.
  • a 10% increase in “Caucus Operations.” This combines four line items into one. The four line items cost $75,900,000 this year and will cost $95,500,000 next year.
  • an overall decrease of 7.7% for the total House budget. Before you get excited, however, most of this decrease comes not from actual cuts in expenditures but from transferring costs to other line items. See “State Government Support Agencies,” which is next.

State Government Support Agencies

These are mostly agencies that serve the legislature, such as the Legislative Reference Bureau and the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. See page 15 of the spreadsheet. “Highlights” include:

  • a 10.1% cut in the State Ethics Commission. It figures, doesn’t it?
  • a 182% increase in the Commonwealth Mail Processing Center.
  • a new office, the Independent Fiscal Office, that will cost $1,900,000 the first year.
  • an overall increase of 97.8% for these agencies.

The Bottom Line

  • Adding the Senate, House, and State Government Support Agencies, the net is a cut of 1/10th of 1 percent or $474,000.

Among the many things that are not yet known is whether the House and Senate are giving up any of their $188.5 million surplus from previous years. We’ll keep digging into the budget and let you know what else we find.

Expect some lawmakers to complain about this summary. Instead, they should complain that this information did not reach the public – or rank-and-file lawmakers – until last night.

If you have an opinion about this, one way or the other, be sure to let your legislators know it now.

To find your legislators, click here for the House web site, and click here for the Senate web site.

Photo by Jason Burmeister

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