Friday, July 15, 2011

The Good News is We're Off the National Radar. At least for now. My guess is we'll probably be back on it in two years as the budget agreement leaves a number of unanswered questions regarding how it will correct structural problems in the state budget and affect state government/local government relations in the immediate and long-term future. It is extremely difficult to gauge what the effects of the agreement will be.

How hard? Whenever I come to a situation like this one, I usually pull out one of my favorite quotes from former baseball great Ted Kluszewski. It goes like this:

How hard is hitting (a baseball)? You ever walk into a pitch-black room full of furniture that you've never been in before and try to walk though it without bumping into anything? Well, it's harder than that.

That's about the same way I feel when I contemplate the policy and political ramifications of this deal. About the only thing that can be said with some measure of certainty is that the final budget package will get few, if any, votes from DFL legislators. Reaction from the House DFL caucus to the budget agreement would best be described as cool (if it were that warm). Clearly, the increase in the payment shift is troubling, along with the unprecedented "bonding for cash" set-up.

I have yet to see much in terms of reaction from either of the majority caucuses.

School Shift Blues. When the question of increasing the shift is set before the education lobby, we try to be Solomonic. It's almost like, "Well, you can slow down the delivery of food to the baby, but please starve the baby." Pushing the metaphor along a bit, we go out and scramble to meet our caloric needs (in a fiscal, not physical sense) which inflicts increased borrowing costs on us, but in the end, we do get our money. But it ain't fun. And it's getting less predictable. And it ain't easy.

Beth Hawkins over at MinnPost, who has been doing a wonderful job covering education issues for the online paper, filed this story regarding the increase in the shift and how it may play into the Governor's education funding reform package that was assembled last spring.

Whither Policy? Or should the title be "Policy Withers?" At this point, the education community has been on the outside looking in as it pertains to the negotiating process, as it should be if the folks beneath the Capitol dome want the shutdown to end quickly. A group of education management organizations, including SEE, have sent a letter to the Governor and legislative leadership urging them to include a number of measures in the final package. Foremost among these items is the mandate relief measures that were included in the omnibus education finance and policy bills. Hopefully, that will help keep some of these items alive.

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