Omnibus Bills Rolled Out, Education Plans Emerge

The Minnesota Legislature stuck to its record-setting pace this session and barreled through long hearings as omnibus budget bills rolled out last week.

Most of the budget committees finished “marking up” their budget plans, with a few more to go this week.

The legislature shuts down Tuesday at 5pm for a week of spring break over Easter/Passover. They return to work on Tuesday, April 11 at noon.

When they return, we’ll see the House and Senate begin full floor session debates on omnibus as they’re called up by leadership.

The Tax Committees in both bodies will take longer with their omnibus bills, and that showdown will be the one to watch as we enter the last two months of the 2023 session.

Education Plans Emerge – chopping up $2.2B

The House Education committee aligned their bill closely with Governor Walz on increasing the basic formula allowance by 4&2 and linking a CPI index (a range of 0-3%) to future budget forecasts. They’re projecting 1.98% and 2.17% for formula growth in fiscal years 26-27.

The House mirrors the Governor’s special education investments as well, which would buy down district special education cross-subsidies by 47.8%.

The Senate is taking a different direction. Their plan would pump 4&5 into the formula, but not including any inflator in the “tails” budget (fiscal years 26-27). The Senate would also go bigger on special education by increasing the cross-subsidy buy-down to 60% in the tails. In a way, this might be the Senate’s nod to building in some increases in school budgets in future years.

All three camps, House, Senate, and Governor, propose funding increases to English Learner programs, student support personnel, Grow Your Own programs, literacy training, multi-tiered systems of support, full-service community schools, and making permanent the 4,000 or so School Readiness Plus PreK slots that are set to blink off at the end of this fiscal year. All three agree that Unemployment Insurance should be extended to school non-licensed staff. The House and Senate require the cost of the new unemployment policy to come off the top of a school district’s formula dollars, not off of the existing UI levy.

The remaining areas of significant differences include House proposals to pay for ‘special education due process’ time and 40% for transportation sparsity, while the Senate does neither of those, but proposes to pay for school library aid to help districts restore licensed school media specialist positions.

The balance of formula increases relative to special education cross-subsidy buy downs and whether to index a CPI inflator are the major areas that the eventual education conference committee will have to sort out.

A short upcoming week at the Capitol

No Education Committees are currently scheduled to meet on Monday or Tuesday of this week. The Education budget bills get a perfunctory review in their respective tax committees to ensure a net zero levy target.

The Pension Commission meets Monday morning to look at a modest investment in TRA, mostly aimed at buying down current liabilities.