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Christmas in May: Making a list, spending it twice

May 16. 2018 9:58PM

Don’t ask Santa, and don’t wait for Christmas.

If you want some goodies, ask a conference committee. Lawmakers unhappy that their pet spending proposals were shot down earlier this session have tacked them on to other bills, like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

State revenues are producing a projected surplus of nearly $100 million, and that’s just too tempting to leave unspent. So the Senate is trying to resurrect several spending proposals already rejected by the House.

The House has agreed to add $10 million to the state’s rainy day fund, which isn’t really spending it. Any surplus would be set aside next year.

The House also agreed to use $44 million to settle a lawsuit with state hospitals over uncompensated care funding, $20 million for red list bridges, and $13 million for a pay raise for state employees.

That’s $87 million. That’s enough!

Senate negotiators are pushing for a series of new tax breaks and programs that would last long after the surplus runs out.

Half of the surplus stems from the federal tax reform bill, and won’t be replicated next year. Adding to the state’s budget baseline outside of the budget is fiscally irresponsible. The Legislature should not spend one-time money on permanent programs. Save those decisions for next year’s budget process, and give the next Legislature a surplus going in.

Tight budgets make for hard decisions. But surpluses make budget discipline even harder.

State Government Editorial

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