Thursday, March 20, 2014

Education Policy Bills Clear First Committee.  The House and Senate Education Policy bills cleared the House Education Policy and Senate Education Committees respectively today.  The day did get long, with the debate on the Senate floor regarding the status of the tax bill delaying the start of the Senate Education Committee until mid-afternoon (more on that later).  The House Education Committee began its deliberations at 10:00 AM and recessed at 11:30.  It reconvened at 6:00 PM and the meeting concluded around 9:00 PM.  The Senate began its meeting around 3:00 PM and the meeting wrapped up shortly before 5:00.  Both meetings lacked the partisan rancor that has typified the debate over the past few years.  Some amendments were added, but they were, for the most part, extremely non-controversial.  Only the amendments relating to teacher evaluation elicited much discussion (an amendment offered in each body failed) and even that discussion was conducted using inside voices.  The bills will now move to the Education Finance divisions in their respective bodies.  Engrossed versions containing the effects of the amendments will most likely be available on Monday.

Here are links to the pre-amended version of the bills:



Senate Tax Bill Hung Up.  Senate leadership expected a floor vote on final passage of the Senate's version of the tax bill today, but in order to do that, they needed to suspend the rules.  That motion requires a 2/3 vote of the body (45 votes) to prevail and because Republicans took a caucus position opposing the motion, the motion failed.  This will require the Senate to take up the bill tomorrow.  As I reported yesterday, the Senate's tax cut package is smaller than both the House's and the Governor's, but the Senate does put more money into the budget reserve.  From a distance, it appears the Senate's mantra is:  "In order to put the state on firm fiscal footing, we had to take a lot of very tough votes to raise taxes last year and the last thing we want to do is come back next year and make another round of tough votes to raise taxes again."  While the economy looks strong right now, a downturn could dim the state's bright fiscal situation and Senate leadership believes that putting more money into the budget reserve to cushion the state in the event of an economic slowdown is the safer route to take.  We'll find out more tomorrow when the debate on the Senate floor ensues.

Thanks to Senator Hoffman.  I want to thank Senator John Hoffman for introducing SF 2520 and inviting me to testify on its behalf.  SF 2520 would take the tax relief portions of the report of the School Facilities Finance Working Group and enact them.  The bill increases the tax relief delivered through the debt service equalization program by lowering the eligibility threshold and increasing the equalizing factor.  The bill also increases the equalizing factors for the health and safety program and the deferred maintenance/alternative facilities program.  The bill does not contain the programmatic changes contained in that report.

Here is a link to the bill:

No comments: