The latest round of partisan sniping at the statehouse is over a state law which establishes today as the deadline for legislators to set the general level of state school funding for the academic year that begins in the fall of 2013.
Republicans want to get rid of the law and set up a different timeline for making those kind of decisions. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, says their idea is “sounder” financially because the decision gets pushed to later in the spring when legislators have a better idea of what state tax revenues may be.
“We think we can make a better decision and with greater confidence at that point,” Paulsen says.
But Democrats like Representative Sharon Steckman of Mason City say regardless of whatever alternative has been proposed, legislators need to follow the law that currently exists.
“I think at this time when schools are worried about the reform package is going to be like — there’s lots of variables out there — we need to give them the stability in at least knowing where their funding is going to be at,” Steckman says.
There is no penalty in the law for legislators who fail to meet this school funding decision deadline, and in the past this deadline has been missed. Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal says when it’s happened before, legislators passed another bill spelling out an exception for the situation, but there’s no such bill pending today.
“I think it’s really kind of fascinating,” Gronstal says. “I guess this is their new attempt at regulatory reform: If you don’t like a state law, don’t obey it.”
Paulsen, the top Republican in the House, shoots back, accusing Democrats of over-promising to schools in the past.
“They ended up not being able to afford it. The governor ended up having to do a 10 percent across-the-board cut, which was more devastating to the schools,” Paulsen says. “I mean, that was crushing to them.”
The state law legislators are violating suggests the House, Senate and governor must agree on the general level of state aid for public K-12 public schools by a certain date. Under the calculations in that law, the date is 30 days after the governor submits his budget plan to lawmakers, and this year that 30 day period expires today.