Inside the House budget. Debate starts Monday.

Monday (March 12th) at 11:00 a.m. the full House convenes to begin what is commonly referred to as “Budget Week”. Appropriating your tax dollars is, without a doubt, the single most important item we address every year in Columbia.

Simply put, it takes a lot of time and effort to put together a budget that provides core services to our state and, frankly as important, can garner enough votes to pass the House and be sent to the Senate.

The next few days allow all 124 House Members a chance to address any concerns on behalf of their constituents as well as attempt to amend any items from the House floor.

In my seven years in office, I have experienced many long debates during budget week. I can recall working through the night and adjourning early one morning around 7am. I can also remember “quick passage” in as little as two and a half days. This year, I imagine we’ll approve some version before Thursday.

As you may already know, we have greatly improved the process of providing the public with easier access into what will be debated and the actual budget itself. To that end, below are links that show you the numbers as passed by the House Ways and Means Committee.

H4813 Appropriations Bill

H 4814 Capital Reserve Fund

Provisos

I’d also like to point out that just a few years ago we made significant improvements to what irked many constituents: earmarks. More specifically: hidden earmarks. In the past few years, if there is not an item previously in last year’s budget or if a request was not asked for by a state agency in the new budget, that request would then be required to be listed on all our desks with the requestor’s name (House member/district), amount of the request, and brief description of the earmark. This way we could debate the merits instead of something simply sliding by unnoticed. I was proud to lead this effort which has helped curb what many commonly referred to as “pork projects” in the budget.

I don’t expect to see any major changes to the bill on the floor (that rarely happens); but that certainly won’t mean there won’t be lengthy discussions and several amendments trying to make changes.

One thing that is never enjoyable is those amendments that pit one group against another and cause hearburn for many elected officials. More often than not, those votes are the ones bound to be shared on the campaign trail by consultants and opposing camps. I’m sure you’ve seen them before in flyers or negative campaign ads…”When given the chance, Representative Jones voted against helping our children” or “Representative Jones chose to give your tax dollars away to (pick a group) instead of investing them wisely in (pick a group).” Such is the nature of politics; from both parties.

If you’re so inclined, you can always watch the hours of floor debate live by clicking here .

Of course, if you haven’t reached out to your Representative yet with your opinion or suggestions, now would be a good time as decisions will need to be made starting Monday afternoon.