The state budget stalemate may be coming to an end. But lawmakers still have concerns about the governor restricting their access to figures, they say, are crucial to balancing the budget.
“And we’re really close. I expect us to have a budget negotiated by early next week,” said Governor Kevin Stitt.
The main sticking point had been education funding.
The House and governor want to give across the board $1,200 raises to teachers, and the governor wants to set $200 million of the state’s $600 million surplus aside for a rainy day.
The Senate wanted only the lowest paid teachers to get raises, and to allow districts to decide whether to give raises to other teachers. But now, the Senate is backing down from that demand.
“We think we can have viable way of getting the teacher pay raise that the House and the governor have been advocating for and a substantial amount into the classroom,” said Senator Greg Treat (R) President Pro Tempore.
The Senate plan includes $200 million for teachers and classrooms and $200 million for savings.
“The two hundred million in savings is very important to me. It’s going to be historic,” said Governor Stitt.
The governor is also taking heat from Senate Appropriations for blocking their access to agency budget numbers.
“We need to have accurate numbers, but we also need to have unfettered access whether that be numbers, whether that’s policy, that needs to be year-round,” said Senator Roger Thompson (R) Appropriations Chair.
Senator Kay Floyd (D) Minority Leader added, “The concerns that we have is that we simply don’t have access to information that we need from agencies that have the information.”
The governor says that’s a lie.
“Couldn’t be further from the truth.” Stitt said, “This session has been going fantastic. Have a great relationship with the House. The Senate.”
That said, the governor does acknowledge that cabinet secretaries won’t turn over some figures to the legislature during budget negotiations when, he says, they’re advocating for what, he calls, quote, “pet projects.”