Richard Piatt Reporting At the State Capitol time is running out and a lot of people are getting jumpy. Nerves are on edge because a large portion of the state budget is still a big question mark right now.
Everyone agrees there will be some kind of tax cut. But which tax? How much of a cut? Those unanswered questions are holding up progress on the budget in general right now.
At the same time, the business of debating and passing bills is going on, and there is tension behind the scenes.
Leadership in the House, in the Senate and the Governor all have different opinions. Should the sales tax be taken off food? Or should income taxes be cut? Or should the flat rate be dropped? The difference could mean a lot to programs like education and health care programs for the poor.
Linda Hilton, Coalition of Religious Communities: "It is really frustrating because our allies keep changing, and opinions keep changing on both sides of the aisle. And we've been put in a very tough spot because we want the sales tax off food, which will help the poor, but then there's the income tax, which affects public education."
Rep. Ron Bigelow, House Appropriations Co-Chair: "The reality is the more money there is, the harder it becomes. The reason is because there are more competing interests and more things each legislator wants to do."
Right now, public education could get as much as a $300-million increase this year. That would be more than teachers are asking for. But there are so many other programs fighting for the money that nothing will be certain until the budget is finalized.
Expectations have been dashed in the past, which is why so many people are nervous. This is happening in spite of all the surplus money the state has, which isn't solving every problem after all.