On Thursday the House passed their budget update by a vote of 203-12, with 30 Democrats joining all Republicans in supporting the measure. The plan includes pay raises for teachers and state employees, cost of living increases for retirees, middle-class tax cuts and no controversial changes to the tax code that have been debated in recent years. With a $330 million surplus in hand, the House crafted a budget light on policy and heavy on measures that will be easy to tout as the fall election season looms. The question, as it always is when it comes to crafting the State budget, is how much will the other chamber’s plan differ, and how long will it take to iron out those differences? With the memory of last year’s protracted budget battle fresh in everyone’s mind, the signs this year point to a much less contentious process. As we’ve reported, the two chambers agreed early on a spending target ($22.225 billion, lower than the Governor’s $22.8 billion proposal) and the House budget plan conforms to that figure. The Senate budget is expected to do the same, and the Appropriations Chairs are expected to announce subcommittee meetings next week to begin the process and anticipate that it will be completed by Memorial Day. That would allow an entire month for House and Senate budget writers to negotiate a compromise version before the fiscal year ends on June 30. Budget Chairs from each chamber met on Thursday after session to continue discussions, lending hope to the thought that a final version may be sent to the Governor before the end of June, making the prospect of adjournment in time for the July 4 holiday a little more realistic, if only just a little more. Read the full report here.