Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Interesting Conference on the Horizon. The Minnesota Taxpayers Association will be hosting what appears to be a very interesting conference on Friday, April 25, beginning at 9:00 AM and running until 2:00 PM. The conference is slated to be held at the St. Paul River Centre located at 175 West Kellogg Boulevard in downtown St. Paul. The theme of the conference is "Emerging Challenges to Fiscal Stability for State and Local Governments." The conference will include some very notable speakers and cover a fairly broad range of topics of interest to policy makers and business leaders throughout Minnesota. A link for the conference is below.

MTA Conference: http://www.mntax.org/educate/conferences.php

For the education community, the most interesting presentation will be given by Dr. Daphne Kenyon, the principal for D.A. Kenyon and Associates in Windham, New Hampshire, and a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Dr. Kenyon' s presentation on property taxes and school funding should be extremely interesting and policy nerd that I am, I am looking forward to it. I have linked Dr. Kenyon's latest Lincoln Institute Policy Focus Report below. It was published in December, 2007, and is available in hard copy for $15 or as a free download. To access the free download, you must register on the Lincoln Institute website (I imagine the only spam you'll receive is policy wonk spam, which is probably mentally nutritious.).

Daphne Kenyon, "The Property Tax-School Funding Dilemma (free registration required for download): http://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/PubDetail.aspx?pubid=1308

Brainerd Visits the Capitol. They came clad in life-jackets (or personal flotation devices) wearing buttons that said "Save our Schools" and they were set on making a case for greater school funding. The failure of the referendum in Brainerd last fall has put an undue amount of pressure on that district. I believe the district is cutting nearly 8% of its general fund budget and that is going to put a noticeable dent in one of the finer E-12 education systems in Minnesota.

I had the honor of addressing this group of parents, school administrators, business and civic leaders, and (most importantly) students. In my brief remarks (Me? Brief? Ha-ha-ha!), I stressed the importance of the comprehensive funding reform contained in PS Minnesota, but also pointed out the fact that it is going to be awhile before comprehensive funding reform will be developed and implemented.

The bad joke I like to use is this one: A father gathers the family around the table in the middle of August and says to his family, "I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that this Thanksgiving, we are going to have the biggest turkey we've ever had and the trimmings are going to be something else. It is going to be an absolute feast like we've never had before." The family applauded wildly, but littlest child asked "Well, what's the bad news?" The father replied, "We're eating pork-and-beans until Thanksgiving."

It is important--exceedingly important--that we look ahead toward the goal of comprehensive funding reform. But we also have to realize that starving the system in hoping it will live to reach the goal would be short-sighted. We need long-term goals that meet the needs of all students in Minnesota and adequate funding in the short-term to make certain the system is still recognizable when we get there.

Senate Bill Clears Tax Committee. SF 3631 (Stumpf), the Senate omnibus E-12 funding bill, passed the Senate Tax Committee today and is on its way to the Senate floor. The language of SF 3631 will be amended to the Senate's omnibus funding and budget correction bill SF 3813 on the floor later this week (or early next week), but will also remain on the floor as a possible vehicle for a late-breaking education funding bill which could be passed in the wake of a Governor's veto of the more comprehensive contents of SF 3813 (or whatever the House File number will be). Stay tuned for that.

There were two amendments added to the bill in the Tax Committee. The first deals with the referendum language that aims to correct the misperception that voting to renew an existing referendum levy will cause a tax increase. Under the Senate's version, the ballot would simply add a statement to the effect that "By voting for this, you are voting to renew and existing levy at the same per pupil amount as previously approved (I don't have the exact language in front of me). A second amendment provides districts receiving sparsity with $80/PU in levy authority for Pay 09 (FY 10) to pay for transportation costs. I'm not saying this amendment is dead (heck, nothing is ever dead in the Capitol this time of year), but I thought I heard Chopin's Opus 35, Number 2 (Yes, that would be the funeral march), playing right after the amendment was approved.

That's it for today (or tonight). Don't hesitate to contact me with your comments are questions.

No comments: