The second half of the 2010 legislative session begins Monday with the toughest decisions still pending.

Lawmakers took a two-week recess after the 20ith day of the 40-day session to allow key committees to work without distractions.

The one thing was the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Daylong hearings with agency heads were designed to give members of the House and Senate appropriations committees information they needed to cope with a $1 billion revenue shortfall.

Gov. Sonny Perdue recommends plugging part of that gap with higher taxes, but legislative leaders weren’t prepared to do that when the recess began and may be just as reluctant after spending two weeks getting a closer look at the budget.

A significant event this week will be the release of tax-collection results from February.

Both the House and Senate have passed versions of the FY 2010 budget amendment, but the conference committee assigned to negotiate away the differences hasn’t met for fear that bad news from the February revenue numbers will force them to have to cut that budget.

Perdue can force changes by lowering his official estimate of how much revenue the state will take in during the fiscal year.

If cuts aren’t desired in the remaining weeks of the budget, the conference committee can spend some federal stimulus money they had planned to spend in the following fiscal year.

The budget may be the biggest news this week, but it’s not the only news. Legislation will be introduced in the House and Senate to restrict the transfer of water from one river basin to another, and the House could vote on Perdue’s water-conservation bill.

RNT