With about three weeks left in the legislative session, the Senate Finance Committee has launched hearings into the state budget even though the House hasn’t approved the spending plan and, therefore, has not yet sent it to the upper chamber. At issue is a difference of opinion over the complicated rules that govern the use of the $842 million Budget Stabilization Fund.
Created in 1998, the fund is a pool of money set aside for years when state government’s revenues from taxes, royalties and other sources are lower than the previous year’s. The House and the Senate agreed to use the fund to help plug an unexpected $319 million drop in revenues and balance the budget before the end of this fiscal year on June 30. But leaders in the two chambers disagree on how to use the roughly $230 million available from a program that granted amnesty if scofflaws paid their back taxes.
Tax amnesty money is considered “one-time” funds, because it comes from a source not repeated year in and year out. Use of one-time money is limited by law.