Local News

Lawmakers Meet Between Sessions to Talk Budget

Posted October 21, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— State lawmakers spent seven months during the last session creating an $11.4 billion dollar budget. It was one of the longest sessions in history and it cost taxpayers millions of dollars. Now,lawmakers are trying to get a head start on next year's budget talks.

This is the first time lawmakers have met on their own, off-session, to work on the budget. Legislators say the budget process is so complicated they need extra time to bone up on all of the specifics. Then they will take on the task of allocating money -- billions of dollars of taxpayers money.

A series of monthly budget meetings started Monday.

In the legislative office building it was like the first day of a new session Monday morning. Lawmakers busied themselves with meeting, greeting and sitting down to talk about the budget.

The full appropriations committee, made up of members from the House and Senate are working to get a jump on budget work they would otherwise have to do in the next session. Committee Chairman Sen. Aaron Plyler (D) says they may save a week's time by meeting now.

They hope to save time and money. The committee will look at each department to see if there are things to cut. Leaders say it's a precedent setting effort to make state government work more efficiently. Rep. Theresa Esposito (R, Forsythe Co.) says the special session costs money too, but saves money in the long run.

Lawmakers will not have their individual staffs available for these meetings. Clerks, assistants, and secretaries are not on the payroll this time out.

Photographer:Mark Copeland