Only one week remains of the 2019 Session the General Assembly. Bills are being heard and meeting their fates at an ever quicker pace. Multiple meetings are scheduled at the same time. Legislators, staff, interested citizens, and lobbyists are all running around trying to protect their turf or see that their interests are being met.
This past week, any legislation dealing with revenues had to be considered by both houses and put into conference if the two chambers had any disagreement over the language of the bills. Conference committees generally are made up of three senators and three delegates. The most significant conference committee appointed every year is on the budget. Seven members of each chamber achieve that coveted assignment. Unlike past years, broad agreement exists already on key elements of the budget. Over $900 million of the surplus will be returned to citizens over the biennium through larger tax returns and in a one-time payment later this year.
Even with the rebates, this budget invests considerable new money into a number of priorities. The budget will include a 5% pay increase for teachers and significant expenditures on mental health services. The full funding of the earned income tax credit, as the Governor proposed, is no longer under consideration. That proposal would have helped those who struggle the most financially. [Read more…]