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Continued: Minnesota school IOU: Why now's the time to repay

  • Article by: LORI STURDEVANT , Star Tribune
  • Last update: March 2, 2013 - 5:12 PM

Speaker Paul Thissen seldom misses a chance to say that his caucus wants to “get the state budget square before we move forward.” He emphasized to reporters after the new forecast was released Thursday that he wants the entire shift off state books by mid-2015.

Symbolically significant House File 1 is Minnetonka freshman Rep. Yvonne Selcer’s bill to require prompt repayment of what was the largest portion of the shift, a delay in state school aid payments. A second portion, speeding up the accounting for school property taxes, would continue to be governed by the existing shift repayment law.

Before Thursday’s forecast, Selcer’s bill carried a steep $550 million price tag. It looked likely to stall and/or shrink in the Senate.

But an improving economy allows an additional $290 million in IOU payback this spring. Selcer’s bill now costs $260 million — not exactly Capitol peanuts, but likely small enough to fit in a final budget that also includes new money for K-12 education.

Campaign politics figure into House DFL zeal for a shift payback. Selcer said her bill is “part of keeping the promise I made to the voters in my district.” House DFLers who made that pledge will face the voters again in 2014; senators won’t be on the ballot until 2016.

But, Selcer said, a prompt repayment is also what her constituents told her they wanted. “They said, ‘Balance the budget; stop the shifts and gimmicks.’ ”

In this unfolding fiscal drama, the role of the Prudent Parent can be shared by many players. Any Minnesotan can have a speaking part. No auditions required.

 

Lori Sturdevant is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist. She is at lsturdevant@startribune.com.

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