Thursday, April 07, 2016

House Budget Targets Released.  Anyone in K-12 seeking new money anywhere in the system this session was dealt a considerable setback today when the House majority caucus released its budget targets.  The target calls for no new money to be spent this session on K-12 purposes.  That might be a bit misleading and I will have to get clarification, but the House is saving $50 million by allowing some districts with maximum effort loans to pay those loans off early.  $7 million on those savings will go toward increased broadband access for school districts in areas with substandard connectivity, leaving $43 million heading to the state's bottom line.  Where that $43 million goes is anyone's guess, but there is no indication that it will be spent on other education programs.  What it does do is give the House some leeway if indeed they develop spending packages.

K-12 wasn't alone.  The House budget targets provide no increase for either Health and Human Services or Higher Education.  State government is to be reduced by $9.5 million, public safety by $1.0 million, agriculture by $1.9 million, and capital investment by $3.1 million.  Areas of spending increase include $11.6 million for broadband access for cities and counties and $3.0 million for natural resources.

Here is a link to the press release outlining the House's spending plan:  House Republican Budget Targets

The next step will be for the Senate majority to announce its budget targets, which will likely be released by the middle of next week.

Where things head after that is anyone's guess.  A lot of bills have been heard this session and the lot of the bills that have been heard have price tags attached to them.  It is expected that the Senate will spend some money--probably one-time money--on education initiatives.  Rumor has it that money for non-Qcomp districts to perform the duties associated with the teacher development and evaluation program is one of the programs receiving the most attention on the Senate side, but there will likely be other programs that receive attention.  I doubt very much that the Senate's proposed spending will come anywhere near what the Governor has proposed.

As a refresher, here is the Governor's education spending proposal:  Governor's Supplemental Budget Recommendations  The education portion of the recommendations are on pages seven through ten.

The House Education Finance Committee will likely put together a bill containing the policy provisions that came out of the House Education Innovation Policy committee along with portions of the Governor's education funding bill that are technical in nature.  The Senate will likely have a more full-blown education bill that contains both policy and funding initiatives.  The question then becomes whether bills from all of the funding divisions will be combined into one large supplemental budget bill to be negotiated in conference committee by the funding division chairs.  That appears to be the strategy, but the problem with that approach is that if the haggling over spending gets too intense, a number of relatively innocuous, but helpful, policy initiatives may fall be the wayside if an agreement cannot be reached.  There are a number of parliamentary options that could help make certain that policy is not sacrificed and we are a long ways off from having to face questions of gridlock, but the possibility remains that little, if anything, could get done in the education realm in 2016.

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