A couple of items of local concern in the Senate Ways and Means Budget draft which was released yesterday:
- The main local aid numbers are unchanged from the House and Governor. So, these numbers are reconfirmed.
- The Senate has not put the special education circuit breaker at the same level as the House and the Governor. This program was cut to $133m to offset federal aid increases in fiscal 2010 and 2011. To offset the falloff in federal aid in FY2012, the House and the Governor had restored the account to the 2008 level of $213m. The Senate put this number at $183m, restoring only $50m instead of the full $80m. Hopefully, the Senate will improve this on the floor or we can address it in conference, but this is an item to watch.
- Partially offsetting the failure to restore the full circuit breaker, the Senate does include, as outside Section 130, the language that the Governor proposed to limit rate increases for out-of-district placements. This language was not in the House budget.
- The most closely watched issue in the Senate budget was the municipal health care reform issue. The Senate does include its own proposal on this issue. That’s good news — it means that we are virtually certain to do something on the issue in the final negotiations between the House and Senate. The Senate proposal awards a higher share of savings to employees and also creates a more rigorous process for implementing plan design changes. The main issue is the process — the Senate approach sets up a closure mechanism (involving a gubernatorial referee) if the parties can’t agree, rather than allowing management to move forward unilaterally. Reactions so far have been muted from both labor and municipal managers — the concept is new enough that people need to digest it. Attached is the summary of the proposal prepared by the Senate Ways and Means Committee.