by guest blogger Andrew Ujifusa
Minnesota's pro basketball team may be mourning the loss of sensational Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio to injury, but the state's public schools may get a big assist following a March 15 vote in the House of Representatives approving a plan for the state to begin paying down a debt to its school districts.
House File 2083 would shift $430 million out of the state's budget reserve fund and divert it into K-12 schools. The move would take a significant chunk out of the $2.4 billion the state owes in general aid to its public education system. The bill passed by a 74-59 vote.
Last year, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton (D) cut a deal delaying $770 million in state aid to education that increased the state debt to K-12 to $2.7 billion although lawmakers had subsequently cut that amount down to $2.4 billion.
As quoted in the Pioneer Press by Megan Boldt, GOP Rep. Pat Garofalo said, "There's a message today. This is what people have to know. Republicans have a plan. Republicans have a plan to reduce the debt we owe to schools."
As an alternative plan, Democrats unsuccessfully tried to amend a state tax provision that allows corporations to place earnings in offshore accounts that they said would protect the rainy day fund while ensuring that the entire school debt would get repaid.
The bill now moves to the Senate. Dayton has expressed skepticism about the proposal, telling Minnesota Public Radio that repaying schools at the price of "fiscal responsibility" is a "very inappropriate" idea.