What is happening at the Capitol
The November forecast predicts a $1.5 billion surplus for the two-year biennium beginning on July 1. Due to one-time revenue and a slowing economy, the state is expected to have only $456 million in the following biennium to continue to pay for any new spending or tax cuts that the legislature would put in place this session. Thus, expect another session that offers a flurry of one-time grant funding.
Speaking of . . . the DFL gained control of the Minnesota House of Representatives. At the end of December, they released the first ten bills that reflect their "values agenda" for the legislative session. The HF2 bill addresses their education priorities, which would provide $90 million in one-time grant funding for a variety of programs focusing on meeting the needs of struggling students and increasing the presence of teachers of color in Minnesota schools. See more details on the grants.
Minnesota senators were not up for re-election this year, and the Republicans maintain a slim one seat majority. All the players of Minnesota's divided state government - the Republican Senate and the DFL House and Governor - are stating their intentions to work together to get things done. We will see how that plays out over the session
Bright spots for the week:
- As I mentioned above, the first bills introduced tend to be high-priority bills for the majority party in the House and Senate. Both the House and Senate introduced identical bills - HF7 (Eklund-DFL)/SF9 (Koran-R) - to provide $70 million for the expansion of broadband in rural Minnesota. Read more on the efforts to expand broadband and why it is essential for equity in education as well.
- The chairs of the individual legislative committees hold great power in determining what content ends up in the final bills. In an exchange between House Education Finance Chair Jim Davnie (DFL-Minneapolis) and House Tax Chair Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth), Chair Marquart said that increasing equalization to lower the taxpayer cost for school levies was a priority of his. Chair Davnie suggested that would be a good issue for the tax committee to take up. Chair Marquart laughed, seemed to concur, and added the comment that he didn't think Chair Davnie would want to fund equalization with the education budget. SEE is strongly advocating for the tax committees in the House and Senate to provide equalization funding as it is property tax relief going to taxpayers in low-property wealth school districts and shouldn't be in direct competition with dollars that could go into the classroom.