Schools for Equity in Education

– Legislative Update

We’re at the point in the 2023 Legislative Session where big things will be happening. With the first policy bill deadline behind us and the second approaching this week, there’s a mad rush to hear as many bills as possible and keep them alive in the discussion. On top of that, the funding bill deadline falls a mere ten days later (April 4) at which point all of the finance bills will have to be out of their committees. That makes it likely that the Senate and House majorities will be setting their budget targets later this week and those targets will provide the parameters for what will be contained in the appropriations bills.

The Governor’s budget recommendations for E-12 come to about $2.5 billion. The Senate passed the free breakfast and lunch bill early last week with an amendment attached to it. On Thursday, the House took up the bill, accepted the Senate amendment, and re-passed the bill and sent it on to the Governor. The Governor signed the bill a day later. This proposal was contained in the Governor’s budget recommendations and passing it as a separate piece of legislation serves as a subtraction from the $2.5 billion in his original recommendation. This leaves between $2.1 billion and $2.2 billion remaining.
All that said, the Governor’s budget recommendations don’t bind the Legislature and the legislative budget targets may well exceed what the Governor has laid out and I wouldn’t be surprised if they do. There are a lot of moving parts and finding the balance between proposed tax cuts and spending and one-time appropriations in terms of grants and tax rebates and on-going spending incorporated into the base that would carry on beyond this biennium. In brief, the overarching funding parameters developed by the legislative majorities will play a large part in determining what the final tax and spending packages will look like as the 2023 session winds down.
The hearing of interest of SEE districts last week was Tuesday’s Senate Education Finance Committee meeting that was dedicated to property tax-related issues with the agenda featuring three bills dealing with equalization and local option revenue. Senator John Hoffman’s SF 1601 would increase operating referendum equalization by about $85 million. Anoka-Hennepin Chief Financial Officer Michelle Vargas and Anoka-Hennepin Board Chair Marci Anderson both provided great testimony in support of the bill. SF 2552—authored by Senator Rob Kupec—would increase debt service equalization by about $40 million. Kasson-Mantorville Superintendent Mark Matuska testified in support. Lastly, Senator Bonnie Westlin’s local option revenue increase bill—SF 866—featured forceful testimony from St. Michael-Albertville Superintendent Ann Marie Foucault. As you can tell from the list of testifiers, these bills are all of great interest to SEE members and it is hoped that they will all be considered in some form and magnitude as the omnibus education funding bills are constructed.
The problem with equalization policy traditionally is that the legislators don’t know where to put it—either the education target or the tax target—so it often falls through the cracks as those respective bills are put together. It’s almost like the old Certs commercial proclaiming that Certs was both a candy mint and a breath mint, but both the tax committees and the education funding committees find it difficult to swallow the mint. It’s not like there aren’t a myriad of possibilities on how to spend education dollars through the various formulas or provide property tax relief through a variety of mechanisms. It’s just when there is this much money on the state’s bottom line, it would be the opportune time to make necessary adjustments to the referendum, debt service, and local option revenue programs. The Governor had over $100 million in his 2021 budget recommendations for increased equalization, but his 2023 recommendations did not and I’m sure that was a big disappointment for many as it was for me. It’s a difficult time of the year to be patient, but we’ll know a lot more in a week.
Stay tuned in to the blog this week as I will be doing my best to keep everyone apprised of what is happening on a day-to-day basis. As always, a call or text to 612-220-7459 with a question is welcomed.


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