A plan to repay delayed K-12 education funding is the latest bit of good budget news to come from the Capitol.
The proposal (H.F. 2083) uses funds from our $1.2 billion state budget surplus to not only pay back the rest of the delayed funds from 2011, but also to chip away at funding shifts enacted by the previous majority.
The state owes schools $2.4 billion – $400 million from the last session and $2 billion the former Legislature borrowed from schools in 2010. We already are using $318 million from surplus funds to start paying back schools and now this new bill puts another $430 million toward squaring up our K-12 debt.
Again, that would completely erase the 2011 shift and make a dent in what the current majority inherited.
This proposal should be embraced by both sides of the aisle. First of all, it is not right for the state to hold a pot of money when schools are borrowing to cover for delayed payments. Also, this proposal would help restore our state’s credit rating by reducing long-term debt. Our cash-flow account would remain intact and we would tap into our reserves, aka the “rainy day” account.
The fiscally responsible decisions we are making in St. Paul continue to produce results. I recently wrote how, in less than a year, we turned a $5.1 billion shortfall into a $1.2 billion surplus. Our unemployment rate is now down to 5.6 percent and more than 27,000 jobs were added in the last two months alone. Our economy is on the upswing and now it is time to do the right thing and repay our K-12 debt.
I have received input from a number of local citizens who agree with me in making repayment of K-12 shifts a top priority; I would have preferred avoiding shifts altogether as we erased a substantial budget shortfall last year. But this bill is an opportunity for us to take action and make things right.
We will work to get this bill on the floor quickly and I encourage the governor to do what is right by approving the bill as soon as it arrives on his desk. Please join me in supporting this initiative.