Hello from the State Capitol,
Taking a Look at Education
House Democrats have unveiled a K-12 education finance and policy bill which will spend $15.7 billion over the next biennium. Top components include the early learning childhood scholarships Republicans piloted last biennium, increasing the basic funding formula by $209 per pupil and implementing all-day kindergarten. The expansion of all-day kindergarten is not fully funded, however, forcing school districts to either subsidize these costs from other areas of their budget or increase class sizes. I fear that new mandates without full funding could outweigh bipartisan measures such as early learning childhood scholarships, and the Democrat plan focuses too much on creating new offices and centers that will only serve to expand the bureaucracy and micromanage our school districts. The bill also is loaded with new panels and task forces to tell us what we already know: local control, effective teachers and high standards are the best way to improve academic achievement for all students and reduce the achievement gap. We should be focused on empowering parents, keeping effective teachers in the classroom, and reducing unfunded mandates.
Tax Day Approaching
April 15 – otherwise known as Tax Day – is Monday. Make sure you file your appropriate forms if you have not already done so. House Democrats are planning to unveil their tax plan on Tuesday. Their proposal includes approximately $2.4 billion in tax increases.
Property Tax Bill Ignores Farm Land
On April 2, we saw a $250 million spending proposal from House leaders that would provide more tax relief for homeowners and new LGA for communities. The problem is they did not offer direct property tax relief to businesses or agriculture land. Minnesota farmers have experienced double digit percent increases in property values, which have led to large property tax increases. Further, homeowner property taxes are going down 3.4 percent in 2013 while ag land is rising by 12.6 percent.
Bonding Bill Unveiled
On Tuesday, House Democrats announced their bonding recommendations, which will borrow and spend $858 million of taxpayer money. Bonding bills are generally reserved for even-numbered years, and Democrats are pushing unusually large projects this year. The projects range from a sculpture garden to a chalet at a resort ski hill. We should not even be considering a bonding bill this year until we have a balanced budget, and we need to know the Democrats’ spending priorities before we talk about borrowing additional money. With just six weeks left in session, it is concerning that a complete budget has not yet been released.
Legislative Update Video
Watch my most recent legislative update video for more of my thoughts on the budget and energy issues: