With their conference committee about to begin, the House and Senate have put together their omnibus supplemental budget bills, which have different priorities for the current projected $900 million surplus. This doesn’t come as a surprise; when the two bodies released their budget targets earlier this session, the House allocated only $2 million of the surplus to areas outside of tax and transportation, and the Senate proposed $463 million in net general fund spending for non-tax and transportation budget areas. We’ve previously blogged about the various health and human services proposals. Today’s blog looks at proposals in E-12 education, higher education and economic development.
The Senate supplemental budget proposes several investments in education. It includes $18 million in FY 2017 for school districts to establish voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, with priority given to areas with higher poverty rates and a lack of high quality pre-school options. The Senate also proposes $3 million in increased funding for the Minnesota Reading Corps. In addition, the Senate proposal sets aside funding to support development of teachers and proper placement of support staff to help improve students’ learning environments.
In higher education, the Senate proposes $14 million for colleges and universities to narrow gaps in college education attainment between students of color and white students. The Senate also includes funding for the University of Minnesota to keep the price of tuition down and support for student programs at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
In economic development, the Senate allocates $2.5 million to make housing more affordable, $85 million for broadband for Greater Minnesota; and $34 million for the Department of Employment and Economic Development for several community development initiatives and workforce training and development.
The Senate also makes it clear that addressing equity issues is a key goal during this legislative session with a proposal that includes $91 million for FY 2017, two-thirds of which focuses on economic development and jobs.
Working with such a small target, the House’s supplemental budget proposal primarily reallocates existing funding, with new investments in only a few areas.
The House’s primary new investment is in economic development. It allocates $15 million in this biennium to increase broadband access for people in Greater Minnesota, and includes several workforce development grants which amount to $3.9 million.
In education, the House’s limited new investments are made possible through savings resulting from a loan refinancing option for some school districts (which is also included in the Senate proposal). The House includes $5 million to improve school-based mental health services and $6 million in grants for some school districts to better serve students who have challenging behaviors or may be suffering from trauma. The House also proposes $1.5 million in increased funding for the Minnesota Reading Corps. The House education bill also changes the way equity funding can be allocated. In the past, this was only available to metro area schools, but the House proposes an additional $7.7 million in FY 2017 and stipulates this equity aid be available to non-metro schools as well.
The supplemental budget conference committee will meet to negotiate on a supplemental budget bill that covers these major areas of the budget, as well as health and human services, public safety, environment, agriculture and state government.