Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The governor proposed a new ‘capital budget’ – so what is that?

You’ll hear about three budgets down at the state capitol, and yes, there’s a different between capitol with an “o” and capital with an “a.”

Today, the governor proposed operating, transportation and capital budgets for the next two years.

The operating budget is the biggest one. It’s like your family’s main checking account, how you pay the bills every month. The operating budget pays for ongoing things like health care for kids, state troopers, prisons, parks and public schools.

The transportation budget is just what you think: highways and ferries, buses and trains.

The capital budget is the one that trips people up. So what is it?

 “Capital projects” are construction projects around the state. Here’s an example: You pay the salaries of state troopers and prison guards through the operating budget, but when you need to build a prison – or an elementary school, state park or university lecture hall – it comes out of the capital budget.

One of the ways we’ve tried to maximize the number of jobs and construction projects is to focus on funding things with local and federal matching dollars. So that’s one of the reasons why the capital budget gets complicated. You can read the highlights of the governor’s proposed capital budget here.

Last year, as part of the Jobs Act passed by lawmakers, our state tried to jump-start these construction jobs by front-loading the construction projects. Instead of taking the money we usually spend and spreading the work out over many years, the idea was to create jobs in a hurry by doing all those projects at once. The Jobs Act created an estimated 20,000 jobs around the state.

The governor’s proposed capital budget would also create thousands of jobs – as would the transportation budget – but her proposal is just the first step.

Next, the House and the Senate will make their own proposed budgets, which will have public hearings in the House and the Senate, then votes in committee and on the House and Senate floor.

In the end, though, the result of the capital budget will be folks in hard hats building schools, lecture halls and parks.

Read this story in Spanish here.