The House budget that will be up for debate on Thursday contains accounting gimmicks that would leave the next legislature in an over $7 billion hole. That’s according to a memo circulated amongst senators this week by Senate Finance Chairman Jane Nelson.
“This House budget contains some real Dr. Evil type stuff,” said one senator who had reviewed the memo. “It’s maniacal.”
The memo identifies four budget-busting mechanisms that have been inserted in the document by House Appropriations Chairman John Zerwas (R–Simonton). The House budget:
- Removes $1 billion from Medicaid for “federal flexibility” but provides no detail on how the House would actually achieve those savings.
- Removes $500 million from several state agencies due to “better contracting” but fails to include any mechanism to ensure such savings are actually realized.
- Increase funding for education by $1.5 billion only if there is a statutory change to delay a Foundation School Program payment of $1.9 billion to the next biennium by cutting only 23 of 24 monthly checks to schools.
- Uses $2.5 billion from the Rainy Day Fund for ongoing expenses, thus creating a hole in the next base budget that would again have to be filled by reaching into savings.
If the Democrat coalition that controls the House is serious about this proposal, it means they are trying to create a budget crisis in 2019 that would allow them to zero-out the Rainy Day Fund. Eliminating that safety net would allow the next crisis to be used to justify tax increases or a gambling scheme, or both.
If they are not serious about this proposal then it is merely a cynical attempt to create as much distance between the House and Senate documents as possible. Assumedly that would enable the House conferees to horse trade other legislation in exchange for a final budget that more closely tracks the Senate document.
Despite these moves, the House GOP caucus is already out lauding themselves for passing a “fiscally responsible and transparent budget.” Indeed, they’ve even crafted a press release to be sent out by “Insert Representative name” filled with Orwellian double-speak. In it, “Insert Representative name” brags to his or her constituents about how the “House budget is balanced, cuts spending, prioritizes critical funding items, and honors our dedicated funding streams without diversions.”
Taxpayers are left to wish those claims were true. The only things that are transparent in the House budget are the gimmicks the House is using for political gain. This budget must be opposed, and a sane budget that doesn’t create a future crisis adopted.