Major budget bills traditionally, but not always, pass the House first and then are transmitted to the Senate, so it would follow with the House bill on the floor that it will be taken up at some point during the coming week. The bill would then be transmitted to the Senate. At that point, the Senate would replace the language of the House version with the Senate language and send the bill back to the House. The House will move not to not agree with the Senate version and a conference committee will commence shortly thereafter.
While the bills both spend just over $2.2 billion, there are significant differences in the bill as outlined in earlier updates and on the blog. The biggest difference is how the general education basic formula is addressed, with the House adopting the Governor’s 4% for 2023-24/2% for 2024-25 with future increases in the formula tied to inflation (with a 3% cap) and the Senate proposing a 4% increase for 2023-24/5% increase for 2024-25 without inflation figured into the next biennium. Both bills propose significant reductions in the special education and English Learner cross-subsidies and both bills support other initiatives proposed by the Governor including creating a revenue stream for to hire student support personnel (social workers, counselors, school psychologists, school nurses, chemical dependency counselors) and providing funding for Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS). Both bills also commit substantial resources to literacy efforts.
There are issues with both bills and the largest one is that neither bill funds the required contribution to the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program for between-term employees. It’s difficult to determine exactly how much this initiative will cost, but it would eat up a large portion of the proposed formula increase. The Governor’s budget recommendations carried a separate line-item to absorb these costs Instead of following the Governor’s recommendation, both the House and Senate diverted those funds to other programs. On top of that, both the House and Senate bills clearly state that districts cannot use the Unemployment Levy to recoup these costs. Allowing that would require that equalization factors be increased elsewhere in the bill to keep the net levy at zero. Rather than go that route, both bills simply require districts to pay for the UI contributions out of the general fund money they will be receiving. This issue is clearly one of the most important from the management perspective to be discussed in the conference committee.
The Republicans didn’t offer a lot of amendments in committee, but I expect they will offer a number across a broad range of issues during floor debate. The House Republicans did offer a single comprehensive amendment in committee. The biggest difference is that almost all revenue would be directed to the general education basic formula (proposal of 5%/5%) and the special education cross-subsidy (equal to Governor’s recommendation and House bill). The bill would also direct $250 million of one-time money to literacy efforts based on the science of reading. They also proposed jettisoning almost all of the policy issues contained in the House bill. I fully expect that this major amendment will be offered on the floor but there will likely be other amendments aimed at particular funding and policy initiatives contained in the House bill.
Check the blog as the week rolls on for daily updates. We may be in conference committee by the end of this week, although it is more likely that conference committee will being early the following week.
Combined Legislative Meetings held this week at the Capitol.