The budget will probably be hammered out by the House by the end of the week and the Conference Committees for both the operating and capital budgets will meet over the weekend to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions. Public libraries will be featured in both committees, since in both cases the Senate and the House versions of the budgets have differences.
For the Operating budget, the Senate accepted a recommendation by the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) not only to freeze libraries again in FY 2011 at the present per capita, but also add the wording “and there after” which means public libraries would never get another per capita increase without changing the law. The House did not accept the recommendation; therefore, there is a chance to get that removed in Conference Committee.
For the Capital budget, the Senate again accepted a recommendation from DLS to put a cap of $800,000 on the library capital grant program. What later came to light is that since this cap would be per project, which would effectively reduce the $5 million annual grant since many library systems apply for multi-year funding for the same project. Again, the House Appropriations Committee did not accept the DLS recommendations and that means another chance to remove this in Conference Committee. Both committees rejected another recommendation that would basically eliminate the grant all together.
There was no warning that these recommendations would be made and the recommendations were not known until after the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee had voted. There is hope that public libraries will fare well in Conference Committee.