Wednesday, February 18, 2015

You Should Be Super Mad Right Now: Legislators Rob School Aid Fund

As a friend wrote on Facebook, 

"This just makes my blood boil."

What was she talking about? She was talking about today's House vote to steal money from the School Aid Fund to fill a General Fund deficit. 

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Excerpt #1 from Kyle Feldscher's MLive article, or 
How are we screwing our school districts this time?:
HB 4110 would shift $167 million from the K-12 portion of the School Aid Fund to the community college portion of the fund. The money that would be freed up by the move would then go toward the general fund deficit.
The legislation also uses $80 million that was initially intended to be paid toward Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) to pay down the deficit. That payment would have been above and beyond the required payment to MPSERS, according to state officials.
"Two hundred and fifty million dollars is being siphoned from the School Aid Fund," said Rep. Sarah Roberts, D-St. Clair Shores. "This money could be used to significantly increase the foundation allowance in support of improving education here in the state of Michigan."

Excerpt #2: 
In which the Republican legislators try to make this sound like it's budget-neutral. It's not.

The School Aid Fund was projected to end the fiscal year with a $283.5 million surplus.

Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, said he was voting in favor of the bill in order to balance the budget and "uphold the Constitution." The Michigan Constitution requires a balanced budget.
"I'm proud of the fact that we are balancing this budget without touching kids, without touching colleges, without touching universities," Pscholka said.

The House passed the bill 62-48. Surprise! It was mostly Republicans who voted for it, and Democrats who voted against it.

And here's Excerpt #3, which explains something you might be wondering:
Why do we have this deficit after all? I thought there was going to be a budget surplus! (You weren't dreaming.)

The budget shortfall in fiscal year 2015 is the result of businesses in Michigan cashing in old Michigan Business Tax credits issued between 1996 and 2011. Representatives from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation said Wednesday the state is on the hook for $9.38 billion in leftover tax liability until 2032 due to the credits.
Right. You read that correctly. 9.38 BILLION DOLLARS. I can predict how this story goes over the next ten years. Unless we change what we're doing.

Translation: We could have shored up our schools' foundation allowances. We could have supported the school retirement funds and thus reduced the burden on our schools (which now spend something like 1/4 of their foundation allowance on pensions). We could have protected the school aid fund for K-12 funding. [And really--I'm all for community colleges! But as I mentioned the other day, we already pay--quite a bit--for them.]

In any case, we should not be subsidizing businesses at the expense of schools.
I suppose you could still say something to your state senator...if you live somewhere else. I'm pretty sure Sen. Rebekah Warren already agrees with me.

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