In the House …
Gov. Mark Dayton’s education budget bill (HF 844) received its first hearing Wednesday in the House Education Finance Committee. Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius provided an overview of the Gov. Dayton’s vision for targeted education investment choices in early education and strategies to close the achievement gap.
This legislation would provide an increase to the General Education formula of 1 percent each year of the biennium ($58 per pupil in fiscal year 2016 and $59 per pupil in fiscal year 2017) totaling $174 million; reallocate School Readiness dollars in addition to $109 million for establishing a pre-K program (funded at 0.5 per pupil); $7.8 million to expand English Learners services from six years to seven years; $28.1 million increase to school breakfast for funding breakfast for all pre-K to third-grade students; $4.6 million for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS); and $19.4 million to eliminate the Head Start waiting list.
Other program increases: $10 million for Reading Corp; $4.5 million for the Indian Education Success for the Future Program; $2 million each for the Northside Achievement Zone and St. Paul Neighborhood; $2 million for Help Me Grow Program; and $6 million for the Regional Centers of Excellence.
The House Property Tax and Local Government Finance Division — a subcommittee of the House Taxes Committee — considered four bills Wednesday dealing with the state general levy and student achievement levy.
The state general levy (not to be confused with the education’s general education levy) went in effect for the 2001-2002 school year and was a part of Gov. Jesse Ventura’s “Big Plan” — which led to the state takeover of school district property taxes.
This levy was intended to augment local school districts’ budgets by establishing a statewide property tax on commercial and industrial property and seasonal recreational. In fiscal year 2002, this new statewide tax generated $592 million. Since then, this tax is used to fund the state’s general fund. Due to an inflation factor, today it generates $832 million in revenue.
All four bills heard Wednesday would rein in this tax significantly, which the Legislature would have to “buy” back (bill authors and descriptions in parentheses):
- HF 482 (Rep. Anna Wills; State general levy automatic inflation eliminated.)
- HF 664 (Rep. Ron Erhardt; State general levy phased out over five years.)
- HF 968 (Rep. Jerry Hertaus; Exempting first tier property value of Commercial/Industrial property from state general levy, reducing state general levy.)
- HF 984 (Rep. Steve Drazkowski; Eliminating General Education Aid Levy, phasing out state general levy.) (Note: This bill was heard on an informational basis only.)
Another bill would have repealed the student achievement levy, which is being collected for the first time this year. This levy is based on adjusted net tax capacity and is required to raise $20 million statewide. Sen. LeRoy Stumpf championed this new levy as a protection for K-12 education should the state face budget reductions.
All of these bills were laid for possible inclusion in an omnibus tax bill.
In the Senate …
The Senate Education Committee on Wednesday reviewed proposals addressing student directory information (SF 337, sponsored by Sen. Sandra Pappas), Principals Leadership Academy funding (SF 524, Sen. Greg Clausen), charter accountability measures (SF 164, Sen. Alice Johnson), and Postsecondary Enrollment Options (SF 429, Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer) and concurrent enrollment study (SF 430, Sen. Kiffmeyer).