Friday, October 23, 2009

Republicans Know K-12 Budget is Not Balanced

They knew it when they passed it, they know it now. Despite all the protests you are hearing about changes to this so-called "balanced budget" - it doesn't exist, and it never did.

MIRS, 10/8. Kevin Elsenheimer admits the K-12 budget was not complete, that the funding at that point was not "viable".

Although HB 4447 is on its way to Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM, the deal has yet to be consummated. The House has not taken up the bills that constitute the Senate's revenue proposals.

MIRS asked House Minority Leader Kevin ELSENHEIMER (R-Bellaire) if he was concerned that the budget could get signed and promulgated, and the House Democrats will still hold out against the Republican-backed revenue plans.

"We're confident the Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader will be willing to work toward getting funding that is viable," Elsenheimer said. "We're willing to wait."

The House has indicated since that they are not interested in the Senate proposal. So, the budget as passed, is still not finished to this day.

Bob Emerson, yesterday. The actual quote is a lot longer, as he named Senator Jelinek, Rep. Brown, both fiscal agencies, and other House and Senate staff as being present at the last meeting before the K-12 budget passed, when all parties were informed that they were voting on incorrect numbers.

Given the falloff in revenues since those official estimates were reached in May, Emerson said lawmakers knew they were voting for an unbalanced budget.

"They all agreed that they knew (the number) was wrong because revenues continued to slip," Emerson said. "While the Legislature might ask us to delay and wait awhile longer, that is their response to everything. Their desire is wait on everything in hopes that things will get better."

School funding isn't likely to get better but worse. Education officials say the K-12 budget Granholm will propose in February could contain additional per-student cuts of more than $500, a figure that state Treasurer Robert Kleine Thursday didn't dispute.

Republicans are clinging to Senate Fiscal Agency head Gary Olson's statement about using the May revenue numbers, and that as yet to be "consummated" Senate revenue deal, as proof that the budget is balanced. They know it isn't. While they say they can wait for the Magic Revenue Pony to show up (and then be in the unlikely position to have to admit the economy is getting better, something they would never do), here is the last fiscal report from the SFA, from Gongwer on 10/13.

According to the SFA, the state has collected $16.8 billion in general and School Aid funds during 2008-09, down 12.4 percent from the year before. While the state is now in the 2009-10 fiscal year, it accrues money for the previous fiscal year through October and to meet the estimate for the year the state would have to collect better than $2.6 billion this month.

For comparison, we collected $1.92 billion in September. Getting to $2.6 this month doesn't seem likely now, does it.

The numbers don't lie. The Republicans do.

And why are we doing this "now"? Many have questioned the timing of this, and Republicans want to claim this is a political ploy on the part of the governor. No, it's a ploy on the part of the calendar, and the Legislature's proclivity for taking many, many vacation days - not to mention the impending election year coming up. To paraphrase Bob Emerson from yesterday, he pointed out that they didn't pass the budget until 8 days past the deadline when it should have been done months ago, and, already way behind in the year, they need to get this out there now, before the lawmakers leave for the holidays.

Neither chamber has posted their calendar for the remainder of 2009 yet, but past behavior is a good indicator of where this is going. They have Nov. 11th off for Veteran's Day. They have two weeks off for hunting/Thanksgiving break. That pretty much shoots November down. Last year the House met 5 days in November, 10 days in December, and the last two were "paperwork days" on the 30th and 31st, when everyone was gone for Xmas. The House then met 3 days in January of '09. So from the end of October to the beginning of February - a span of three months, and we'll even give them the paperwork time - the House was in session a total of 18 days. The Senate, 17.

That's why "now" - these guys are getting ready to fly the coop again very soon, and schools need to know where they stand.

Contact your legiscritters and tell them you want the schools funded. The House is here, the Senate is here. This may be our only chance to get them to actually do their jobs before they come around and ask you to give them another one.

Governor was in GR today, here is an interview with WOOD TV-