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Senate Democrats present supplemental operating budget

The same day House Democrats unveiled their proposals for the operating budget, capital budget and transportation budget, the Senate Democrats also presented their operating budget proposal. 

Among other line items, the Senate Democrats’ operating budget proposal includes an allocation of $19 million for the Supreme Court, $43 million for the Court of Appeals, $112 million for the Secretary of State and $779.1 million for the Department of Commerce.

One of the biggest allocations totaled $2.2 billion for the Department of Social & Health Services Economic Services Program, which consisted mostly of dollar amounts appropriated to cash and emergency assistance, economic assistance programs, WorkFirst administration expenses, WorkFirst job education and training activities, transportation assistance, the working connections child care program and child welfare services. 

Senate Democratic Caucus leaders said the operating budget proposal -, combined with the biennial budget passed last year, includes investments in clean energy, paid family leave and health care, among other facets of the budget, that will pay off for years to come. 

“This year, with our economic forecasts, we found ourselves in an extremely fortunate position,” said Sen. Christine Rolfes (D-23rd District). “The people of this state continue to create one of the strongest economies in the nation, which is enabling us to address some of the state’s major crises with this budget.”

A one-time spike in the state’s revenues because of the booming economy, Rolfes said, allowed Senate Democrats to address three major issues — homelessness, behavioral health and climate change. Towards that end, the budget shows more than $1 million was allocated to the Department of Social & Health Services Mental Health Program, while the Health Care Authority’s Community Behavioral Health Program received more than $3.4 billion in allocations. 

The budget also allocates $2.8 million to early childhood education and assistance program providers, while $2.2 million is appropriated for early childhood education rate enhancements for educational providers that cater specifically to children with special needs or behavioral health disorders. 

More than $118 million was appropriated to child care center providers, part of an effort to fund early childhood education and K-12 education — another legislative priority Rolfes identified in a Monday press conference. 

Appropriations to fund the Department of Human Services Aging and Adult Services Program, another budget priority for Senate Democrats, totaled $6.4 million.

The State Parks & Recreation Commission was allocated $183.4 million and natural resources, in addition, received $477 million. 

“We’ve created a budget that I believe is sustainable, stable and creates economic prosperity,” said Rolfes during the Monday press conference. “But it’s also a potential reality that the economic prosperity we’ve been facing isn’t going to continue forever, so we’re setting ourselves up to be safe.”

Rolfes also acknowledged the rollout of the House budgets on Monday, saying that while she didn’t get a chance to review the House proposals, both caucuses share the same values and she expected that each caucus’s proposals aren’t too dissimilar.

“I expect the budgets are pretty close, and we should be able to get things balanced and finished on time so we can finish the session on time,” Rolfes said.