As I write at 9 p.m on Sept. 16, it appears that the education community has cobbled together a deal in the second special session that, while it will not please everyone, is probably the best that can be hoped for at this time and under these circumstances.
Reaching a legislative compromise is never easy, given all the agendas at play. That is especially true at this point in the second special session with a General Fund budget deadline of Oct 1 staring legislators in the face. Agreements may evaporate in the time it takes someone to go to the restroom and return and coalitions become as fragile as a spider’s web.
In a nutshell, the agreement involves two bills. One involving changes to the Rolling Reserve Act, the other making a change in where revenue from Use Taxes go. Presently all Use Tax revenues go to the Education Trust Fund. With this agreement, 47 percent of Use Tax revenue will be retained by ETF.
If the agreement holds $80 million will be shifted from ETF to the General Fund. In return, the Rolling Reserve Act will be modified to set aside less money for the “budget stabilization fund” and to have only 14 years, rather than 15, included in determining average budget growth. (The lowest year of 15 will no longer be used in the formula.)
Many people worked hard to get us to this point. People with the state department of education, as well as various groups who represent segments of the education community. Their work is commendable and appreciated.
And while I often write about the legislature in something less than glowing terms, there are members of both the House and Senate I recognize not only as conscientious and hard-working, but as personal friends as well. Certainly Senator Trip Pittman, chair of the Senate Finance & Taxation Education committee and Rep. Bill Poole, chair of the House Ways & Means Education committee were key players.
I have always compared politics to sailing when the wind is against you. If you set sail dead into the wind you will make scant progress. Instead, you tack first one way and then the other, and in due time you will reach your destination.
And you live to fight another day.