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State budget & taxes

State education and school aid budget, and revenue sources for schools

It's September 7th: do you know where your school's funding is?

*Nearly every school district passed its budget for this year last June, our children went back to school this week, and the State's new fiscal year begins in 24 days. But, as yet, there is no agreement in Lansing on what schools will be allowed to spend this year, let alone how it will be paid for.*

You would think this would put school systems in a bind, and you would be right. Sadly, the fate of our schools and our children's education takes a back seat to larger issues, namely: who is going to take the blame for increasing taxes.

The price of revenue

*As bills make their way through both houses of the Legislature, it is becoming clear what kinds of "reform" measures the Republican caucuses in both houses will demand in return for allowing a vote on new or increased taxes.* In the House, a bill is set to come to the floor which would limit health care plans offered to teachers by local districts, pegging them to the plans offered to the non-unionized civil service. In the Senate, a package of bills would encourage public employers, including schools, to band together into large pools to negotiate for health insurance. The Senate plan has attracted bipartisan support as well as support from public sector unions, with the notable exception of the MEA(Michigan Education Association). ("See our earlier coverage.":http://www.miparentsforschools.org/node/76) Changes to the teacher's retirement system just recently passed the Senate ("see earlier story":http://www.miparentsforschools.org/node/85). Some other bills recently introduced in the House make it clear that the effort to score political points will not end soon.

Senate acts on teacher retirement benefits

*The Republican majority in the Senate passed changes in the state teacher retirement system today, the first plank of their "reform" platform to emerge from the chamber.* Senate Republicans have insisted on significant changes in public expenses, many of which focus on public school teacher retirement and health benefits, as the price of allowing (and implicitly supporting) a vote to increase taxes for the next fiscal year (see related story). The measures, "SB 546":http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2007-SB-0546 and "SB 547":http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2007-SB-0547, would increase employee contributions into the pension system, require retirees to pay a portion of their health benefits, and tighten eligibility for full retirement benefits. The measures passed on party-line votes.

Budget deal saves schools - for now

Late Friday, Michigan's top lawmakers hammered out a deal which both prevents last-minute cuts to schools and closes the current year's deficit without a tax increase, but at a cost. Most of the cuts from the regular state budget went to fund increases for health care and prison beds, both of which are projected to increase because of the poor economy. To fill the overall gap, the Legislature intends to sell rights to some future tobacco settlement fund revenues ("securitize" these revenues), among other things. Closing the current year's deficit without a tax increase is evidently part of an agreement with Senate Republicans not to block a vote on an income tax increase for fiscal 2008.

Open Letter to House Speaker Dillon and Senate Majority Leader Bishop

Dear Speaker Dillon and Senator Bishop, On behalf of Michigan Parents for Schools, including parents and concerned citizens across the state, I ask you to do your utmost to craft a budget agreement which invests in our public schools rather than pulling the props out from under them at this critical time.

Revenue Conference: School aid deficit $150 million larger than predicted

Much as the Hubble Telescope expanded the known universe, the May revenue estimation conference expanded the "known deficit" for Michigan government and schools. Top state economists agreed that revenues earmarked for school aid for the current year (2006-7) will be $153 million lower than estimated in January - or about $560 million less than originally budgeted for school aid last year.

Alert! School funding crisis needs solution now!

Take action now!

Make your voices heard! The school funding situation is at a critical juncture. State officials have just finished their review of expected tax collections. They found that revenues earmarked for schools will come in even lower than expected in January -- $153 million lower than the earlier estimates that were already revised downward. That means a total shortfall of as much as $560 million for this year and cuts to districts of $116 per pupil right at the end of the year unless new money is found.

Senate pushes through budget plan after negotiations fail

The state Senate approved a Republican plan to balance the current fiscal year's budget along party lines last night after negotiations on a compromise proposal broke down. The measures include cuts to schools of $36 per pupil, transfers from restricted funds, and pushing some expenses into next year. Senate Republican leaders wanted to pass a plan to close the current year deficit without increased taxes, while Gov. Jennifer Granholm and House Democratic leaders wanted new revenues to be part of the package to help with both this year and next.

News Analysis: Looking for Cover

The recent fuss in the Legislature with budget agreements that weren't and battling press releases has made it fairly clear that the Republican majority in the Senate is looking for cover on increasing taxes, but Democratic lawmakers are reluctant to give it to them.

Legislative Wonderland

The lengths that some lawmakers will go to avoid dealing with the reality of the state's budget situation was on display today in Lansing. With this week's conference of state economists expected to find that the budget deficit has grown significantly since January, some lawmakers were touting budget solutions that relied on the lower, outdated, figures. Late this afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) issued a press release announcing that an agreement had been reached on the state's budget deficit, one that did not require new taxes. Sen.


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