Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Moving Right Along. We are in the midst of our round of SEE spring regional meetings and I'm glad to say that attendance is healthy and the discussion is lively. But man-o-man is all of this really complicated.

First, we're in the midst of the largest budget crisis in the history of the state with a divided government, with each of the three parties have a distinctly different vision as to how to get out of this mess.

On top of that, the recently-passed federal stimulus package has added a layer of complexity to the process. At this juncture, it appears (and I readily admit this may be a mirage) is that the federal money will be used to back-fill cuts that the Governor and Legislature will make to balance the state budget, but the how's of that process remain to be determined and will consume most of the rest of the legislative session to develop.

These and many other subjects have been and will be discussed at the regional meetings. I hope to see many of you at the remaining two meetings, next Monday in Isanti at the Creamery Cafe and next Thursday at the St. Cloud District Office.

Equalization Bill Up Thursday. HF 1643, introduced by Representative Paul Gardner (DFL-Shoreview), will be heard in the House K-12 Funding Division on Thursday afternoon. The hearing will begin at 2:45 in Room 10 of the State Office Building.

The bill increases the referendum equalization factor to twice the statewide average or slightly over $1,000,000 in referendum market value per resident pupil unit. The price tag is hefty and I am not kidding myself in believing this has any chance of passing this session, but it is extremely important that this subject is discussed. The new Minnesota Miracle developed by Representative Mindy Greiling (DFL-Roseville) contains some improvement in the referendum equalization factor, but not to the extent necessary given the fact that it has been increased since 1993.

Further, given the fact that property taxes will likely increase, and increase dramatically, given the state budget crisis, it is important to recognize that when greater emphasis is placed on the property tax, areas with relatively low levels of property wealth are hit harder by this burden. While I am not optimistic about the short term prospects for greater equalization of the referendum or other education levies, initiating the discussion and keeping the quest for greater tax fairness alive is extremely important. I'll let you know how things turn out.

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