It’s the second-to-last day of the 30-day special session. (Please forgive last week’s lapse of morning updates; a furlough kept me away from the Legislature). Now we’ll see if a day off for Easter allowed weekend tensions in the Senate to cool, and whether there’s any chance of a deal by Tuesday.
With the $31 billion state budget all but finalized, three so-called reforms remain sticking points in negotiations. Republicans and centrist Democrats won’t vote on the budget or a capital-construction budget until the three demands are met. House Democrats have offered competing versions of all three:
- GOP Sen. Joe Zarelli’s pension plan. As Brad wrote last week, Zarelli’s version repeals early-retirement benefits for new state employees after July 1 – saving $1.2 billion for the state general fund over 25 years and $1.5 billion for local governments. The House version saves less money.
- Democratic Sen. Steve Hobbs’s changes to health insurance benefits for school district employees, meant to move toward equalizing coverage for part-time and full-time workers and for individual and family coverage. The latest Senate version requires all employees to contribute some money to their health plans, among other changes. The House version is up for a potential committee vote this afternoon and mainly requires more reporting by school districts.
- Democratic Sen. Jim Kastama’s attempt to prevent the state’s two-year budgets from adding more costs than the state can afford over the next four years. The latest Senate version isn’t binding on the Legislature because it’s in the form of a law, not a constitutional amendment. The House version goes even less far; it requires the third and fourth years to be reported on the balance sheet but doesn’t require that they be balanced.