Oct. 30, 2003 – After seemingly endless meetings — public and private, endless conferences with government officials — public and private, and endless Senate hearings — public, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg announced on Thursday evening that his Finance Committee will hold its final Fiscal Year 2004 budget meetings on Nov. 10 and 12.
"I regret that the process has taken so long," Donastorg said.
"But, given that we received the governor's budget more than three months late, I think senators and staff did a tremendous job in getting us to this point so quickly."
By law, the executive branch must forward its proposed budget to the Legislature each year by May 30. Gov. Charles Turnbull delivered his FY 2004 proposal on Aug. 29. By that time, Donastorg had already held six weeks of Finance Committee budget hearings at which department and agency heads spelled out how much money they wanted and why — to no particular avail, as it turned out, as the Senate for the last two months has been dissecting the administration proposal.
The governor's budget is not popular with the legislators in many regards, especially his calls for a 36-hour work week and a number of new or increased taxes — which several senators, including Donastorg and Senate President David Jones, have said they will not support.
"We have developed legislation to substitute for most of what the governor proposed," Donastorg said in a release distributed Thursday evening. He did not elaborate.
"We have held some very productive round-table discussions," he said, adding that he is "pleased at the level of cooperation" among his colleagues and from others who have contributed their ideas to the process. Until now, there has been little meeting of the minds over the budget in the Senate chambers, with the minority and majority caucuses have spent most of the year in discord.
Once the budget clears the Finance Committee, it must be approved by the full Senate. No date has been announced for a legislative session to take up the measure. The Senate calendar for next week shows no meetings at all scheduled.
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