With the desperate, impassioned efforts to override Tim Pawlenty’s vetoes essentially over, most of the high drama around this biennium’s budget is essentially over. Like other sections of the budget, E-12 Education takes a hit through accounting shifts — where the state delays paying this year’s per-pupil funding until next year — but DFL education champ Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL – Roseville) is calling it ‘good enough’, because the core legislation does not reduce school funding.
According to MPR’s Polinaut blog, the shift will be worth $1.775 billion, or almost 13% of the $13.7 billion appropriated by HF 2. To fill the holes in their budgets, districts will have to borrow enough money to tide them over into the next fiscal year, when the state money will be delivered. This, though, increases each district’s debt burden, reducing the amount of money they can spend on classrooms, busing, etc. because they will have to pay interest on the borrowed money. In terms of immediate, local impact, this could speed up the closure of three St Paul elementary schools that were originally slated to close after the 2009-10 school year.
Update (5/19/09; 11:30am): Bill Sailsbury of the PiPress says Pawlenty may delay repaying the nearly-$1.8 billion in shifts until the 2012-13 biennium. Wow! That’s gonna smart. Particularly because he’s been so resistant to raising additional revenue, instead of hoping that the economy will quickly recover, and revenues will rise to provide education funding for that biennium AND money to pay back the shifts.
Because the DFL essentially threw their budget proposal back in the governor’s face after he vetoed it the first time, the Governor will likely make good on his threat to unilatterally unallot what spending he doesn’t like, come June 1. Pawlenty hasn’t said he will target education for cuts, but it’s still up in the air until he makes his decisions public; furthermore, several school districts around the state are in statutory operating debt, or very near, and unallotments may sink them if they are not handled sensatively. PIM’s Dan Feidt has Speaker Kelliher’s take on Pawlenty’s plans:
12:50 a.m. update: Speaker Kelliher talked to a former governor and “friend” about unallotment and fiscal responsibility on the way in. The unallotment statute was put in for emergencies, she says, “probably an extreme stretch” of what was intended by the statute. If a DFL governor did this kind of unallotment, there would be a similar concern. “it will be the sixth time in history… and for him, the third time using the tool.” It was his “backstop” or “walkaway point” which he was willing to use to walk away. Kelliher expects there may be people who use to try unallotment, she says.
Filed under: Minnesota, St Paul, Budget Crisis, Education, Education Funding, Large-Scale System Change, St Paul Public Schools, Tim Pawlenty