As we get deeper into the session bigger projects begin to come together, especially concerning the budget and financial affairs. This year is no exception.
I wrote at length about the HB 2- the state budget- process last week but I didn’t get into the behind-the-scenes work. As per usual, several legislators need to be informed as to what is in the bill. We have a few that brag they have never voted for a HB 2 and they never will. Convincing them is a lost cause so we concentrate on those that will listen and understand what we have to say.
Every Tuesday through Friday there are meetings at 7 am for various groups, some of which duplicate. The chair of Approps and I attended all the meetings to make sure any questions were answered, and the process was understood. Two evening meetings were also held for the same purpose. We have to get at least 51 yes votes but 67 would be better. After the effort it appears, we are in good shape and when we start the hearing on the House floor tomorrow, we should have pretty smooth sailing. Basically, the same process occurs in the Senate. Many meetings are also held with the budget director and his staff to be sure we are on the same page.
The big challenge now is that the $2.74 billion bill came at the same time. I guarantee you, if we didn’t have the wonderful, dedicated staff that we have, the processing of both issues would not have gotten done. We cannot say enough good things about the staff. The hours they have put in to get us to this point is unbelievable.
In order to get a better handle on how to appropriate the funds from ARPA- we call it the beast- we divided up the sub committees and assigned each a few categories to study based on the list provided by the feds. Unfortunately, very little in the way of concrete rules have come from the feds so we had to do what we could with what we had. We don’t expect to get all the rules until mid-summer and it may necessitate a special session to sort it all out. Some areas are very tightly constrained, so we were limited in those cases.
On Thursday and Friday of this week the sub committees reported their work to those of us on an over site committee. Department and public testimony was a big part of what was done in subcommittee. You can’t believe the numbers of people that had “great” ideas about how to spend the money. The challenge there is that, with small exceptions, the projects had to have a connection to Covid-19.
Saturday, we spent many hours working on structuring the ideas into workable categories. That was no small task, but I believe we got a very good, though not perfect, plan. Sunday will be spent putting some numbers together in the categories and meeting with the budget director to update the executive on what we have done. We want no surprises from either branch of government.
Presently the big dollars are planned to go to broadband, water and sewer. I believe that will be the case at the end as well. More on this will be forthcoming.