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$147 million for schools in tentative agreement – June 28, 2017

A tentative bipartisan agreement on the state budget is taking shape that would send roughly $147 million more state aid out to school districts over the next two years, with the caveat that 50 percent of it be used for property tax reduction.

The proposal was presented by the Senate Republicans on the special Committee of Conference charged with forging a deal, but Democrats indicated they were not far apart. The spokesman for the House Republicans did not comment at the press conference held early this afternoon to unveil the proposal.

If all parties can come to an agreement and vote on the budget prior to midnight Friday when this fiscal year ends, it could avoid a government shutdown. Key in all this is Gov. LePage, who has to sign the budget by that deadline before it becomes law.

The $146.7 million proposal would send out $16.7 million in the first year of the biennium and $130 million the second. That amount is a compromise between what House Republicans proposed – $125 million – and what Democrats came down to – $200 million.

Democrats initially called for $320 million in school funding based on projected revenues from the surcharge on high earners passed by Question 2 that Republicans want to see repealed.

“I truly believe we are going to be successful and get to an up or down vote before the close of business Friday,” said Republican Senate President Michael Thibodeau.

Democratic House Speaker Sara Gideon agreed.

“There are many things we agree on here and our spending number is incredibly close,” Gideon said.

In addition to stipulating that half the additional General Purpose Aid must be used to reduce property taxes, the proposal also calls for increasing the homestead exemption, which also reduces taxes.

The special budget committee is expected to continue its work through the day, with the hope of having a budget agreement that can be printed on Thursday.

MSBA and MSSA members will be updated on the budget’s progress through special bulletins as the work continues.

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