Letter: Politics shouldn't figure into school paymentLast week, I co-authored legislation that pays off the extended school funding shift agreed to by the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton last year to help solve the budget deficit.
By: District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker, R-Luverne, Worthington Daily Globe
Last week, I co-authored legislation that pays off the extended school funding shift agreed to by the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton last year to help solve the budget deficit.
Last year we increased funding for schools by $700 million, but part of the governor’s request was that we had to delay those payments in order to pay for other services in the state. Now with our economy improving, schools should see that increase by utilizing some reserve funds and completely paying off the 10 percent delay in payments we enacted last year, and starting to pay back the debt approved by previous legislatures.
Under current law, $318 million of our recent budget surplus reduces the amount of last year’s school payment shift extension. According to the bill, $430 million from cash reserves eliminates this 60/40 payment schedule. It also makes the first repayment towards the 70/30 rate that was enacted by the DFL-led Legislature in 2010, which borrowed $2 billion from our schools. Historically, Minnesota has carried a 90/10 school funding shift.
While I believe the time is right to pay back our debt, I also hope that Gov. Dayton reconsiders his opposition.
The governor stated that he doesn’t like the bill because he thinks it could hurt Minnesota’s credit rating. So if we had faced a $400 million deficit last year instead of a $5.1 billion shortfall, does that mean he would have rather borrowed that amount from the schools instead of deducting that amount from $900 million in budget reserves?
He also opposes the bipartisan bill because he thinks Republicans will benefit from this politically. That’s a pretty poor reason to oppose fulfilling obligations to schools in southwest Minnesota. It’s my hope that Gov. Dayton takes the time to hear from Minnesotans before he opposes the bill, and I hope he reconsiders not paying back the schools with some of our reserve funds.
The bill passed the House floor Thursday afternoon with bipartisan support and is awaiting Senate action before being presented to Gov. Dayton.