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News at the Capitol and your survey responses
by By Liz Mathis State Senator · February 2nd, 2017

This week we had some difficult decisions to make. The Governor and Lt. Governor announced we needed to make mid-year budget cuts. When we left the Capitol last year, we had an agreement between the House and Senate to balance the budget and the Governor signed the deal. As you may know, by law, we balance the budget each year. But we balanced on revenue estimates and the actuals that came in were not as predicted. The agriculture economy is having a slight downturn. So, there are now cuts in the making.

On Tuesday in our Appropriations Subcommittee (on which I serve) the Senate Republicans, who are now in the majority, presented budget cuts that took millions from Regents institutions and community colleges. Senate Democrats voted no on the entire bill - higher education should not receive cuts.

On Thursday, the major mid-year cuts passed the Senate by party lines. Democrats argued there was a better way to fund these cuts. As I've noted, we have a $738M balance in the rainy day fund, there is $20M available in the underground storage tank removal fund and millions in an economic emergency fund. I've said I would put education first and by voting no it means I don't agree with the cuts that have been proposed.

On another topic, this week we organized survey information from 195 constituents. We asked you for responses to several topics and the results are interesting. When we asked you "which item is most important to our state," 45 percent of you said great public schools. Access to local and affordable health care came in second. When we asked, "Should Medicaid be privatized?" more than 84 percent said no. Also, 71 percent of respondents agreed that the minimum wage should be increased, 66 percent of respondents agreed the state should do more to prevent flooding and flood damage and 84 percent of respondents agreed that there should be more help to community colleges so workers can develop skills to get good jobs.

Thanks to all who participated in the survey. As always, you can email me at
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