Leonine Public Affairs The budget conference committee met throughout the week to reconcile the House and Senate versions of H.439, the FY2022 budget. Budget discussions hit a snag with the release of the federal guidance for the eligible use of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. The Joint Fiscal Office and Scott Administration officials informed the budget conference committee that some areas of the budget bill that utilize ARPA funds may not be eligible to use those funds. These areas include housing, childcare and economic development, among others.
The Joint Fiscal Office and the Administration developed plans to swap out general fund dollars for ARPA dollars where needed and are now working to see if there is consensus on how to do that. Secretary of Administration Suzanne Young told the conference committee on Friday that the Administration has not removed any appropriations from the Senate budget proposal in developing its swap out plan. The House and Senate conferees on H.439 appear confident they will be able to move forward with the budget without significant revision.
The H.439 conference committee is also developing a plan to allow the Joint Fiscal Committee to address certain pandemic-related budget issues that arise off-session. The Joint Fiscal Committee is charged with managing budget concerns when the full legislature is not in session.
The committee has 10 members, including the chairs of the four money committees – House and Senate Appropriations, House Ways and Means and Senate Finance. During 2020, the Joint Fiscal Committee was given additional authority to reappropriate federal Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars in order to ensure the state could meet the end-of-year deadline for expending federal aid.
The proposal for the Joint Fiscal Committee’s responsibilities in 2021 has yet to be released, but it will likely allow for flexibility to make some budget decisions without the full consent of the legislature.
The budget conference committee has a goal of finalizing the budget by Tuesday, May 18 to meet the goal of final adjournment on Friday May 21.
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