Monday, May 01, 2017

Feats of Daring and Agility.  It's that time of the legislative session when one wonders whether the apt analogy would be:

Balancing Plates


Juggling Chainsaws

There is a lot going on and with three weeks to go in the 2017 regular legislative session there needs to be a lot going on.  The legislature is doing a good job of getting its initial entrees to the Governor ready, but all indications are that the Governor is going to veto almost all, if not all, of the budget-related bills and the tax bill.

Monday began with a discussion of the Senate and House versions of HF 140, the bill that would create the Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board and the tiered licensure framework that would clarify the requirements to be a classroom teacher in Minnesota and the training necessary for those who hold a license in one of the tiers to retain a Minnesota teaching license.  Testimony was taken from Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius, current Board of Teaching Executive Director Erin Doan, and Nels Onsted and Debbie O'Dell from the Minnesota Department of Education Licensing Division.

There is bipartisan support for this bill, but questions remain about tier one licenses, which would not require a bachelor's degree under the bill and the timeline for transferring the current duties split between the Board of Teaching and the Minnesota Department of Education to the new board.

The E-12 budget and policy conference committee was slated to meet this afternoon, but did not meet.  Instead, the conference committee will meet tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10 AM.

The tax conference committee did meet and they have released the framework of their bill.  The documents can be found here.  Go to the right hand column under attachments to view the spreadsheet and the bill language:  HF 4 Documents

There is good news in the tax bill for low property wealth school districts and districts with high concentrations of agricultural property.  The Ag Bond Credit that has been part of the last two tax bills (both vetoed) is in the bill once again.  Under this provision, 40% of the property taxes on agricultural property attributable to local school district debt service is reduced through a direct-to-taxpayer tax credit.  The other provision that is helpful is an increase in the debt service equalization program.  There is good news and bad news here.  The good news is it provides approximately $30 million in property tax relief to low property wealth school districts.  The bad news is that it is a one-year provision. 

There is a difference between the Governor's approach on debt service and the Legislature's.  The Governor works from the top down by reducing the second tier eligibility level, making more of the debt service levy in districts with high levels of debt service effort subject to the higher second tier equalizing factor and delivering tax relief to those districts.  The legislative approach drops the first tier eligibility threshold and hikes the equalizing factor on the first tier.  This makes more districts eligible to receive assistance through the program while still delivering considerable relief to districts with high levels of tax effort.

I'll be back tomorrow with another update.  Things should be moving fast on the budget bills.  It is still unclear whether the Legislature will send the Governor bills and have them vetoed or if the Governor will enter into direct negotiations this week in hopes of striking a broad agreement on tax and budget issues.  Stay tuned. 

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