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School funds become political football

April 12, 2012
The Journal

It is sad that the State of Minnesota, once considered a shining example of support for education, has been reduced in recent years to raiding the piggy banks of the state's K-12 school districts to balance its own budget.

Driven by a governor who had pledged not to raise taxes and stood firm to impress his fellow Republicans as he moved to the national stage (how'd that work out for you Gov. Pawlenty?), Minnesota's budget was balanced a couple of years ago by holding back about $2 billion from school districts. In the Great Budget Compromise of 2011, the state borrowed another $700,000 from schools, again due to Republican opposition to raising taxes.

Republican legislators this year wanted to show how education friendly they are by paying back about $430 million to school districts, taking the money out of the state's recently refilled reserve funds, a move that would leave about $277 million in the fund, far less than the $1.3 billion state budget officials say we need to keep on hand.

Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the payback to protect the reserve fund, pointing out that the Republicans had rejected the DFL's proposal to get the payback funds from closing up corporate out-of-state tax loopholes.

We have to agree with Dayton's veto. It is not fiscally responsible to raid the state's reserve fund, even for the noble end of paying back some money to school districts who could really use the money.

It is odd that the DFL is suddenly the party of fiscal responsibility in this case.

And it is still sad that the state continues to owe money to the state's school districts, and that the legislature and governor are turning the issue into a political football.



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