The Senate introduced its version of the budget on Wednesday. Senator Andy Hill headed up the press conference and was flanked by most members of the Republican Caucus. Both budgets fully funded MSOC , reduced K-3 class size, and funded all-day kindergarten, but the amount each budget determined to be necessary to meet that goal differed. In addition, both budgets were balanced assuming a partial repeal of I-1351. Senator Hill’s budget has actually offered legislation to that effect with Senate Bill 6088. Neither budget, however significantly addressed the issue of local levies funding items that have been deemed to be part of basic education. However, Senator Hill hinted that discussions on that issue are occurring.
The key differences between both budgets include:
- House budget funds a portion of the improvements with new revenue, the Senate, although allowing some tax preferences to sunset, does not raise new revenue.
- The House proposal to repeal parts of I-1351 does not have a referendum clause whereas the Senate version does.
- The House includes teacher compensation and includes funding for health care benefits whereas the Senate comes in at a lower rate for compensation
- The House funds state employee pay raises based on a percentage that has been negotiated with the Governor’s office and labor unions. The Senate version offers an adjustment based on a $2,000 increase for the biennium – thereby raising low income workers by a higher percentage.
- The House funds the tuition freeze that was voted out of the Senate. The Senate doubles down by offering to pay for reductions of tuition for four year institutions by up to 25% by the end of the biennium.
- Both budgets fund Social and Emotional Learning Study, but only the House addresses Breakfast after the Bell. Senator Litzow has indicated that there is willingness to work on this issue all the way to the end of the session.
- Both budgets provide for enhanced early learning and child care, but the House funds it at a higher rate.
According to McCleary Lead Eden Mack who was on hand to testify today, “I am grateful for the increase in K-12 spending… (but) it clearly does not go far enough to meet the state’s obligation to amply fund K-12 education. “ Due to the legislature not making significant strides in addressing the use of local levies for funding teacher salaries, there are concerns that the Supreme Court may deliver sanctions to the Legislature shortly after the close of session. Time will tell.
The Senate is currently hearing the budget in committee and will pass it from Ways and Means tonight. It is planned to be voted off the Senate floor on Thursday. For a side by side comparison of the House and Senate Education Budget, click here.