The budget bills have passed the House and will be awaiting conference committee hearings. The next three weeks are critical to getting the budget sent to the governor on time. This is our most important job – getting a budget passed.
From our district, I have heard about the importance of education, childcare, keeping our property taxes from rising and the workforce shortage. To that end, I have been working on bills that help maintain our school funding, provide opportunity scholarships for low-income parents for quality preschool, broadband expansion and have supported tax bills to help our rural communities.
The challenge is that broad disagreements exist between all the bills. There are 134 members with different viewpoints and different district needs. The bills that have passed the House represent an attempt to give everything to everyone. We have a finite budget with only about $400 million in one-time surplus spending. After this budget cycle, the projected tax revenue is expected to decrease. Because we have filled the "rainy day" fund, there is money set aside to mitigate the decrease.
I expect to see the Senate and the House working through the difficult budget towards a reasonable number that uses the available money but doesn't set up too high of a future budget.
The most important issue we should be working on is the workforce shortage. For the next 10 years, our communities will continue to face a lack of workers. Economically, this means less people to hire, less people to buy homes, less consumers to buy products and inflation--costs will go up to account for less consumer activity. Rural communities will need to find housing and childcare options to help attract the available workforce. And, we need to become a welcoming community that can grow. Community leaders must address our workforce shortage.
Have a great weekend.