House and Senate budget negotiators have been talking past one another for weeks now but today we have hope.
It's easy to be stubborn when your unscrubbed ideas end up in the news each day; such is the life of a lawmaker. Past budget conference negotiations and position "offers" have been made behind closed doors which allows folks to change and adapt their ideas without penalty, but this session we are seeing something different. Senate budget writers proposed open meetings in which the House and Senate would exchange budget conference offers. It started pretty messily with the Senate leaving the room when the House brought guest presenters to the meeting, but overall this has been a positive step.
So consider the Senate's new budget conference offer today, and keep in mind that its previous positions have been splashed all over the news. Today, the Senate moved halfway to the House's position on many of the big items in contention.
- The Senate agreed to the House position on pay raises for state employees
- The Senate offered to meet the House halfway with 8% pay raises for teachers
- The Senate offered to meet the House halfway on Teacher Assistant positions at $292 million. (House was $407 million, Senate was $178 million)
- Senate agreed with Governor's reduction of Steps in teacher pay scale to 6, and with starting teacher salaries at $33,000
- Senate proposes $150 million cut for Medicaid to House's $120 million cut which makes them only $30 million apart
Whether you agree with the positions the Senate has moved to or not, their proposal was a rational and reasonable step in this process. Maybe we will wrap this session up in July!