Last week our legislators did a good thing.
During a short, business-like special session, they passed a public works bill and a package of tax incentives and directed funding to the courts and the Health Department.
At the end of the day, Sen. John Arthur Smith, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, threw a little cold water on the euphoric proceedings. Ninety-nine municipalities supported the capital outlay bill, he said.
“I want them to be on their guard. We can claw that back. That’s not an empty threat. They will have to act more responsibly. I have a list of how much money is out there not spent.”
The Legislature giveth and the Legislature taketh away.
As Smith has said before, he doesn’t play games or make idle threats. Next year, without a solid economic rebound of the state’s economy or oil and gas revenues, we can expect another tight budget. Smith’s committee and its counterpart in the House will be looking for money.
During the regular session, last winter, State Auditor Tim Keller announced that $4.5 billion was sitting in more than 700 state accounts. Of that, $2 billion, primarily from past allocations, hadn’t been spent for infrastructure projects, including $700 million for water projects.