Lawmakers took a step Tuesday afternoon toward finalizing the 2016 operating budget. The Conference Committee approved adding $16.5 million to the Base Student Allocation, bringing the per-student funding formula up to a level schools were planning on.


“It is big progress, obviously the school systems are very happy with this, I would imagine,” said Rep. Mark Neuman, co-chair of the Conference Committee.


The big budget hurdle — state employee contracts — has yet to be cleared.


“Until we come up with a fiscal plan I think we need to honor those contracts and then we can figure out what to do from there,” said Rep. Chris Tuck.


The Conference Committee was originally scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, but met at 1:30 p.m. West High School students Amy Allgyer and Katie Radford, who are taking an online summer course in U.S. Government, waited at the Legislative Information Office for a couple of hours in the morning before leaving.


“I worry about the future of the state and how it is going to work,” 15-year-old Allgyer said.


The juniors understand the state is facing tough financial times, but they also don’t think it should be taking so long to finalize the budget.


“We have given them plenty of time,” Radford said. “They are still not here, they are still not doing anything to fix problems, to fix holes, to fix the schools, to fix health care.”


School funding and health care are their main concerns and both students support Medicaid expansion.


“We cannot get health care at all basically, we only get it during the summers when my dad has a government job,” 16-year-old Radford said.


“The whole thing with the government is they are supposed to be equal towards us and they aren’t doing that,” Allgyer said.


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