This week, the majority unveiled their Education Finance Omnibus bill. This will be the House version that sets the education funding levels for the 2014-2015 biennium. As a member of the Education Finance committee, I wanted to update you on some of the specifics in the bill.
Highlights of the plan include a $209 per pupil funding increase, as well as $150 million dollars for statewide all-day kindergarten and $50 million for early-learning childhood scholarships. The Democrats also propose $850 million to pay back the remainder of the school shift.
Republicans agree that committing budget resources towards improving education should be a priority. A well-educated workforce is critical to keeping Minnesota competitive and prosperous, and we need to be doing more to ensure we have schools that are the best in the nation.
The concerns we have with the bill are about the funding sources, as well as the unfunded mandates that will burden school districts across the state. The school shift is paid for with a "temporary" surcharge on the top tax bracket. Unfortunately for hardworking taxpayers of Minnesota, few things are as permanent as a "temporary" tax increase. The last "temporary" tax increase was enacted in 1991, and Minnesotans are still paying it today to the tune of $350 million dollars annually each year.
In addition to committing to produce a well educated workforce, we must also be mindful that we should also include a commitment to ensure that this same educated workforce will be able to secure a job when they graduate.
The unfunded mandates included in the education finance bill would divert already limited staff time and resources to meeting Department of Education requirements and filing requisite reports. Additionally, the omnibus bill includes millions in wasteful spending on increased bureaucracy that would be of little benefit to students.
I hope before the bill comes to the floor that it can be improved upon and stripped of any burdensome mandates and wasteful spending. Our area school superintendents have repeatedly reminded me that they do not need any more unfunded mandates including onerous regulations that require more reporting and paperwork which transfers resources away from educating our children.
Bonding Proposals Released
Also this week, the House DFL and Governor Dayton released their wish-list for bonding projects around the state. Bonding for projects is accumulating more debt on the taxpayer credit card. We are approaching 75-80% of our bonding "credit card limit", and as we carry this debt forward, we are increasingly diverting general fund dollars towards interest payments and debt service.
I do not support additional bonding this session, as bonding bills are traditionally reserved for even-numbered years. It does not make sense to borrow additional money from the hardworking taxpayers of Minnesota to pay for more government spending, particularly when very little of the proposed spending would go to critical infrastructure like roads and bridges. Before we can even begin to discuss the prospect of an off-year bonding proposal, we should get our work done on the current budget which is our first and most important priority for the 2013 session.
Informational Meetings April 13th
On Saturday, April 13th I will join fellow District 33 legislators Senator Dave Osmek and Representative Cindy Pugh for a series of informational meetings.
These meetings are a chance for us to listen to the feedback and suggestions from District 33 residents so we can best represent you in the closing weeks of session.
I hope you will consider attending the meeting that is most convenient for you. Details are below:
Saturday, April 13, 2013
10:00A.M. -11:00 A.M.
Carver County Library
7711 Kerber Boulevard
Mound High School Theatre
5905 Sunnyfield Rd East
Hennepin County Library
5184 Main Street East
Maple Plain, Minnesota
Have a great weekend,
Rep. Jerry Hertaus