Wednesday, March 25, 2015

House Target Announced.  It's always difficult to predict where the exact spending targets are going to be when they are announced, but veteran Capitol observers were all pretty much surprised when the House budget targets were released yesterday.  The biggest surprise was the budget target for E-12 education, which came in at $157 million above base, which is approximately $400 million below the Governor's proposed level of spending (after the release of the Governor's supplemental budget).  The House budget resolution (which is linked below) pares back spending below the base in Health and Human Services and reduces increases in other areas of the budget in order to propose $2.2 billion in tax cuts.  The tax cuts are unspecified, but $2.2 billion is a lot of moolah, so the possibilities are pretty much endless.  Some tax targets may include the statewide business property tax that was implemented in 2001 as part of the negotiations that eliminated the state general education levy.  There will also be efforts to reduce property taxes on agricultural property, but that's not expected to amount to more than $100 million to $200 million over the biennium (big money, but even at $200 million, it would leave $2+ billion in other tax reductions).

The size of the E-12 education budget is a bit puzzling to many.  The House has been hearing a lot of bills (and a lot of them cost money) and indications were that the House wanted to put revenue on the general education basic formula in excess of the 1% increase in the Governor's budget.  At $157 million, that simply will not be possible.  Further, the House has shown some support for the Early Childhood Scholarship Program, but again, with a target at this level, any significant investment in any program could be difficult to accomplish.  As disappointed as some of us are (and count me among the disappointed), the House has left $315 million in revenue unallocated in their budget resolution and it is possible that some of that revenue will be moved into the E-12 budget category as the process continues.

The House Ways and Means Committee met on Tuesday night to pass the budget resolution to the House floor and amendments were offered.  Representative Mary Murphy offered an amendment that would have pushed the E-12 budget target up to the Governor's recommended level of spending, but that was defeated on a party-line vote.  There were several other amendments offered to either direct portions of the proposed budget resolution in certain directions or raise/lower recommended target amounts, but like the education budget amendment, they all failed on party-line votes.

It will be interesting to see how the process unfolds from this point forward.  The Legislature is breaking for a week starting Friday and legislators will be holding meetings in their districts and the budget will be discussed.  Reaction from the public during the spring break has sometimes (not often) brought dramatic changes in approach as legislators return to St. Paul for the remainder of the legislative session, so if you are upset by the budget targets, it is important to talk to your legislator (politely of course) about the needs of your school district.

The Senate will be releasing its budget targets on Friday and I will make no predictions as to what their targets will look like.  Hopefully, it will be in the range of the Governor's recommended levels of spending and perhaps a little more on the education side of things.  I will certainly post the numbers and my thoughts on Friday.

Link:  House Budget Resolution

Bill Introductions.  Wednesday, March 25.


SF 1995--Dahle--Creates Ag2School debt service property tax credit.


SF 2098--Ward--Appropriates money for the child and adult care food program.

SF 2113--Carlson--Modifies special education payment schedule for certain charter schools.

SF 2115--Swedzinski--Modifies school district reporting requirements and requires Commissioner of Education to annually eliminate obsolete reporting requirements.

No comments: