Thursday, May 19, 2011

Details, Details

Amazing how fast you can get a budget done when no one is obstructing it, isn't it? The world will hear "school cuts reduced"! but it's a bit more complicated than that. School cuts will be reduced as long as you do what the Republicans want you to do - and that's cut school employee benefits and probably privatize services, but haven't seen details yet.

The additional money, about $200 per student, would be added back in the budget to help districts with their retirement costs and to reward “best practices” that include service sharing and lowering employee benefit costs.

The agreement announced Thursday still reduces the foundation allowance for K-12 from $7,316 to $6,850, $470 per pupil. But it adds back $20 million in categorical spending Snyder cut, including $13 million to reduce class sizes.

Let school leaders chew this over and wait for their reaction. It is sure to mitigate some of the pain out there, but probably not much. The per-pupil cut is a monster that is going to cause some damage. The Democrats are crying "foul", but seriously folks, why in the world would you trust these guys to keep their word? What does it take until you learn that they don't care about what Democrats think, and as a matter of fact, will probably go the opposite way, just to hurt you and your constituents? It's starting to get embarrassing.

As far as the rest of the budget, $255 million goes to the rainy day fund, $133 million will go to a reserve school aid fund to offset retirement liabilities. Nothing was said about cuts to Community Health, so the guess is they still intend to hurt some poor folks real bad. More details...

Universities would see a 22 percent reduction in state aid. Schools that hold tuition increases to 7.1 percent for the next school year would see that reduction shaved to 15 percent.

The budget restores $30 million in funding for state aid to county and municipal governments. Cities that share services and lower benefit costs would share in a $215 million “best practices” fund that replaces the $304 million in statutory revenue sharing they’re receiving in FY 2011.

Again, bust your unions and Republicans will reward you. Might want to watch that closely; just a hunch that Republican districts/cities/townships will see more "reward" than others. Color me suspicious. Some relatively good news - brownfield/historic preservation development gets $50 million. Film credits will get $25 million, and while that is something, you can kiss the industry goodbye. With both Georgia and Louisiana keeping incentives intact, the business will go there.

And we must throw some bones to the wingnuts, of course.

House-passed language in the higher education budget that penalizes universities another 5 percent in state aid if they offer domestic partner benefits will be replaced with “intent” language, with no penalty, that it's the Legislature's view that they not offer them.

Separate language requiring universities to report to the Department of Community Health their embryonic stem cell research activities will remain. Snyder’s legal counsel Wednesday said the language was unconstitutional. Asked if he would veto it, Snyder declined to say.

We will see if Snyder will stand up to the loons, but don't hold your breath. Hopefully our universities will tell the Legislature to "stuff it", and keep doing what they do.

Hope that someone keeps watch on who gets rewarded under this "best practices" nonsense. Not calling the Republicans corrupt or anything, oh no not me, but if it starts to look like the shoe fits...

UPDATE: The Gongwer story on the budget contains more details, including a breakdown of spending by department. Interesting sentence on the film credits: "Snyder said the program would need to be redrafted so that it did not guarantee a 42 percent credit." Meaning that bill that was introduced to restore the credits with different terms may have legs after all.

Cut it. Put it back. Everyone cheers. Public thanks you - and doesn't pay attention to the fine print.

Gotta admit, they play the game well.