First, thank you to everyone who came out to the Friends conference this week. We had great attendance at the legislative reception, and were proud to have Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown and House Speaker Tim Moore spoke at the reception about the importance of State Parks to our state.
Appropriations committees began meeting this week, as the formal business of the legislature started at a slow pace. The committees are undertaking their biennial review of agency functions, the budgeting process, and an examination of how much revenue economists expect the legislature to have for allocation. Barry Boardman, the legislature’s chief economist, announced Thursday that he expects a $271 million shortfall for the upcoming year. All eyes will be on the so-called “April surprise,” which is when legislators will find out from Revenue officials whether the true-up during the tax filing process was a positive or negative one. Legislators are hoping that the surprise will be positive, with citizens withholding less from their income taxes following 2013’s tax reform measures (resulting in smaller refunds). Legislators will also be watching the projected Medicaid budget, which has a large impact on the overall budget picture as well.
The first official step in the budget process is the release of the Governor’s budget, which could be as soon as February 23. We are advocating for the Governor to include the State Parks Centennial in his budget, along with funding the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.
No bills related to parks were filed this week. If you have any questions, please let me know.