Although it took a few hours of a second special session (consider it stoppage time), the state legislature adjourned this morning with a balanced budget and some important structural reforms. Rachel La Corte has a good, brief report for AP on the session's final hours and accomplishments.
Here's the governor's statement.
Acknowledging the difficult challenge our lawmakers faced, I commend them for coming together to balance our budget and agree to important government reforms.
Sen. Joe Zarelli, who led a bipartisan Senate coalition that insisted on reform bills, had this to say.
“Our side came in saying we wanted to act on reforms before we would even consider revenue. We will leave having accomplished that."
A key element in the budget breakthrough stemmed from an accounting change, which AP describes this way.
The budget plan relies heavily on an accounting maneuver, valued at $238 million, in which the state would temporarily claim control of local sales taxes before they are redistributed back to jurisdictions at their usual time - roughly a month after they are collected.
In addition lawmakers eliminated a tax preference for mortgage loans and imposed taxes on "roll your own" cigarettes. The latter was deemed a clarification of tax policy, not a tax increase, by the Lt. Governor, which meant it could be enacted with a simple majority vote.
In all, the session made important progress toward closing the rolling structural deficit that has cast a cloud of uncertainty over state budgets since the beginning of the recession. There is, however, reason to remain concerned and engaged. The adopted budget leaves a slender $320 million reserve. A summer economic downturn could force additional adjustments in the spending plan before the end of the 2013 fiscal year.