A Few Nuggets from the Conference Budget

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The Conference Budget came out late last night and its being voted on today, all 263 pages of it, which each and every legislator has doubtless read.

– Our unique-in-the-nation restrictions on contracting with the private sector remain largely intact. The Senate attempted to raise the cap on projects subject to the law to $2 million (see section 7D), while the Conference budget (in section 7) only raises it to $500k (from $200k). Given the hundreds of million in additional taxes in this budget, its hard to feel good about such a small rise.

– Sections 129 and 130 generate extra money for the budget from two of the murkier sources of funds. 129 continues the current year’s practice of putting the touch on various quasi-publics to fund budgetary items. In my mind, it raises a larger oversight question: if these folks have free cash laying around, why don’t we know it and why don’t we do something about it?

130 flushes $31 million into the General Fund from a variety of attractively named funds (that I believe were used to stuff old surplus money away from public view).

– The budget funds the Quinn Bill at a fifth of the original FY09 amount and, in inside language for municipalities and Outside Section 128 for State Police, it eliminates the benefit for new employees. But read the fine print, if a police officer has started to earn credit towards the benefit by September 1, 2009, the benefit remains in place. If I were a police officer without any points accrued, I’m on the phone to Anna Maria College ,a popular place to get credits, right now. Classes start June 29th.

Left unsaid in the budget is that many municipalities opted in to the Quinn Bill contract, then negotiated contracts that left them liable for any shortfall in funding from the state. The 80% cut in the state appropriations becomes a local aid issue for those communities.