Negotiations Are 'Promising'

Feb 21, 2017

“We are attempting to start on time, but as we work through these negotiations, we want to make sure we have every opportunity to hear from everyone,” Speaker Taylor Barras apologized, as the House started more than three hours late Monday afternoon.

Leaders from both chambers were meeting, still trying to find agreement on how much of the Rainy Day Fund to use for the shortfall.

 While the governor has asked for $120-million, the House says they're only willing to use $75-million. The Senate has said they prefer using $99-million.

“I think it’s a bit naïve for us to think that they’re just going to take us at our offer,” Senator J.P. Morrell warned the upper chamber Sunday night. “I think that part of a negotiation is that that number inherently will probably come down.”

And it already appeared to be dropping by at least $3-million, as Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry urged the House to say no to the Senate plan on Monday evening.

“Members, I’m going to ask that we reject the Senate amendments,” Henry urged. “The dollar amount is $95.9-million that would be assumed or implied that you’d use from Rainy Day. The Rainy Day resolution has $99-million on it. That alone, obviously we have to fix.”

House Appropriations is set to discuss and vote on the Senate-approved version of the resolution to use the Rainy Day Fund this morning.

The Senate as a group agreed to stand firm on their number when they approved it Sunday. And the House Democratic Caucus met Monday, issuing a statement that they have agreed to stick with the Senate plan. That, combined with the failure of the “No Rainy Day” bill to win House approval Sunday, put Henry in the position of having to seek a compromise.

“I would tell you right now from my conversation with Senator Alario, the process is going very well and very promising, so we’re moving in the right direction,” he assured the full House.

Added to the talks now is a potential Senate agreement to go along with the Speaker's HCR 1, which plans to start skimming a portion of dedicated funds (stat deds) for paying state debt, starting July 1. The Senate Finance committee will be considering that measure this morning, with House Appropriations starting their meeting once they see what the Senate committee does.