Budget could force a short 2012 session


It’s possible that the 2012 session could begin in the first part of March, making it the latest start date since 2006. The proposal is contained in the House budget, approved by the House Rules and Legislative Administration Committee March 21. It now moves to the House State Government Finance Committee for consideration as it constructs its budget bill.

The second year of the biennium is traditionally shorter than the first year, and is reserved for bonding of capital projects. Because of the proposed shorter session, the budget would reduce the cost of hiring “session-only” or temporary staff by 50 percent.

According to House Controller Jim Reinholdz, the $56.26 million budget funds the administrative workings of the House of Representatives for the 2012-2013 biennium. This represents a $2.9 million reduction to the General Fund base, and is $6.6 million below the original 2010-2011 biennial budget.

Other budget components include:

  • a reduction to member Per Diem from the current $77 per day to $66;
  • a freeze (in place since 2008) on permanent employee salaries to current levels;
  • an increase for member and employee health insurance of 7.7 percent in each year of the biennium;
  • elimination of funding for tuition reimbursement;
  • minimal funding for out-of-state travel, with speaker approval only; and
  • funding committee budgets at a reduced level.

In a memo to the committee, Reinholdz wrote: “While the House of Representatives is making continuing reductions to the operations budget, it has a constitutional duty to perform its functions. This budget will fulfill those duties, but with noticeable reductions and change to current operations. The House needs to be wary of reductions that will diminish the capacity to perform its constitutional functions.”