It feels like the ink just dried on our 2011 budget, but it continues providing great results and opportunities to do more good things.
The latest example is a proposal to not only pay back last year’s K-12 funding shift, but to go a step further. The bill also would begin repaying the shift we inherited from the previous DFL-controlled Legislature.
We would be able to make this happen by using some of the $1.2 billion in new state budget surplus funds. We already are putting $318 million in surplus funds toward repaying the latest K-12 shift. But the state still owes schools $2.4 billion, including $400 million from the 2011 and $2 billion the DFL Legislature borrowed from schools in 2010.
Our bill (H.F. 2083) puts $430 million toward paying down K-12 shifts. This would allow us to fully repay last year’s shift and begin paying down the shift we inherited.
This is a common-sense bill that should receive bipartisan support. Both parties have resorted to K-12 shifts, yet we all would rather avoid them and say repayment should be a priority. So let’s let our actions speak by doing what is right; let's pay off the K-12 debt we owe.
Not only will passing this bill help our schools and our children, but our state’s credit rating will be aided by reducing our long-term debt. Just as with our personal credit ratings, the state’s rating is negatively impacted by its debt load. Ratings firms have taken note and downgraded us. Now it costs Minnesota taxpayers more in interest costs when the state borrows. Paying this debt is a much more effective use of our money than letting it sit in a reserve account.
This opportunity to pay back the kids is exciting and is possible largely because of the decisions we made last session. We already have made a $6.3 billion improvement on our state economy within the last year and now our unemployment rate is down to its lowest rate since 2009. I am proud of the things we are doing and the results we are achieving.
Now is the time to do what is right and pay back K-12 shifts. We expect our bill to make rapid progress in the Legislature and be presented to the governor for his action soon. Please join me in supporting this proposal.