by Sheila McCant
The focus of the fourth week of the legislative session was money. The Revenue Estimating Conference met Tuesday and revised the amount of money the state has to spend for both the current and upcoming fiscal years. For fiscal year 2006-2007, the adjustment amounts to an additional $118 million, while fiscal year 2007-2008, which begins July 1, increases by $128 million.
According to state analysts, the additional money is due to higher personal income tax collections and interest earnings on the current surplus. The economist with the Legislative Fiscal Office said the increase in personal income tax collections is due in part to the extension on 2005 tax filings given to citizens affected by the hurricanes which are just beginning to come in. But he warned that the hurricane- related growth is starting to level out.
The House Appropriations Committee this week reported House Bill 1, the state budget bill. The bill left committee at $29.6 billion and includes money for education, health care, charity hospitals, infrastructure, and pay raises for teachers, law enforcement personnel, college faculty, and state workers.
The committee also passed House Bill 920, the legislative budget bill and House Bill 931 , the judicial appropriations bill.
House Bill 2 , which contains almost $5 billion in state construction projects, has passed the House Ways & Means Committee. Under the House rules, the bill now heads to the Appropriations Committee for further consideration before being taken up by the full House.
A total of 251 House bills and 112 Senate bills have made it through their House of origin. Four bills have completed the legislative process, two House bills await concurrence in amendments, and one bill awaits the governor's signature.
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