Senate Finance chairman Steve Ogden announced today he was dividing his committee in two — at least for half a day — to tackle the budget’s biggest challenges: public education and health and human services. The two subcommittees will meet in public, with agendas posted in advance. Sen. Jane Nelson will chair the health and human subcommitee; Sen. Florence Shapiro will head the public education panel. As someone who lamented the obscurity of the “working group” process — which often occurred in tiny quarters with difficult-to-ascertain agendas, witnesses and timing — I look forward to seeing how Ogden’s decision will translate into more public awareness of the development of the state budget. Re-inventing how the numbers are put together couldn’t happen in a more fortuitous year. Smaller committees could facilitate a more honest exchange between legislators and gubernatorial appointees about the true impact of potential cuts to their institutions. The two subcommittees will meet in the mornings and evenings, with the full Finance Committee meeting in the afternoon.
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