This week the House of Representatives finished its work on the state budget and sent it to the Senate for further debate.
The $24 billion dollar spending plan represents cuts in numerous areas, including across the board decreases in all state departments because of budget shortfalls.
The most controversial budget item made by the House was a $28 million cut from a health care program that serves about 2,800 blind persons who do not qualify for Medicaid and using that money for higher education. To soften the blow to the blind, the House approved a smaller transitional heath care program to assist with their needs.
By moving the money from the blind, the House would keep funding for higher education at its current level. It also allowed $5 million to be added to basic aid for public elementary and secondary schools. Another item approved by the House was giving a 2 percent pay raise to all state employers as they have gone several years without a salary increase.
The budget will now go to Senate for further debate. Funding for the blind will remain a controversial item as leadership in the Senate and the Governor’s office have opposed the cuts and urged restoration of funds.