Gassman outlines legislative priorities
“Some of this may sound like a broken record,” Rep. Tedd Gassman said in response to a question about the top priorities for the 2018 legislative session, which kicked off this week.
The goal is to get the K-12 funding done within the first 30 days. This will give our schools plenty of time to set up their budgets.
We have been working on a water quality funding bill for the last two years. There are differences between the House and Senate, and also between some House members. I think we will get this done even without all of the members in favor.
The current bottle bill is being hotly debated right now. Should we continue with what we have or look for something more inclusive. The bottle bill only takes care of 3 percent of the trash. Too much goes into our landfills. I would like to see a continuation of the the bottle bill close to the current law without stores having to take back the empties. We would add to that some form of curb side recycling or large dumpsters where people can take their recycling. There may have to be a fee attached to some of this.
Another issue is a change in our tax structure. Now that the Federal Government changed their structure it would be best to make some changes at the state level. There are others I will write about through the the following weeks.
As for unfinished business from last session, Gassman pointed to a flawed budget estimate that put the state in a tough position.
It appears that the estimate we got last December is going to be more than the actual amount we will take in. We will have to reduce some budgets already set up for fiscal year 2018. Along with that, we borrowed some money from the rainy day fund that we will, at least in part, pay back this year. That will leave less funds for the 2019 budget.
In order to prevent overspending, Gassman said that he favors a reduction in the amount available to spend.
“I’m for reducing the amount available to spend. In past years the December Revenue Estimating Conference amount was reduced by 1 percent, leaving 99 percent of that estimate to spend. I believe, for now anyway, that we should decrease the amount to spend by three percent until we can find a better way to estimate the future.”
He noted that his constituents speak most to him about social welfare issues.
“Probably a little ironic, but the social welfare system is the most often spoke about issue. It comes from both ways. Some think that the Medicaid system that was changed to an MCO was not a good idea; others think that our social welfare system is too lucrative. I think the best way to go with Medicaid is to use the Fee for Service method for those that are nearly-to totally disabled and the MCO method for those that have the mental and physical ability to work.”
Finally he stressed that mental health issues will continue to impact the entire state—not just state government.
“Mental health is an issue we hear about daily,” he said. “I really believe we need to look at a long term solution. EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE INVOLVED. Government alone will not be able to fix this problem.”