The special session of the State Legislature that has just ended. On the important issue of education funding, I am happy to report that I maintained my commitment not to support a bill that reduces funding to our children, teachers, and classrooms. The final budget solvency package contains three key provisions that together mean our schools will not see a reduction in classroom funding.
The first component of the package is a novel provision that swaps state general fund money for unused capital money to reduce the strain on our state treasury while maintaining education levels. The net effect statewide will be a total reduction approximately .7 percent in education funding from the state, which will cause no perceptible change in the classroom. The package also provides an additional source of funding to districts to close the .7% gap to zero by opening up previously restricted funds at the district level. Finally, the package contains a $3 million fund to protect small districts from any unforeseen effects of this funding change. In short, we achieved my main goal of the special session: balance the budget without reducing education funding available to our schools.
In addition to the education funding package, the legislature passed bills that protect Medicaid funding while trimming 7.6% from the budgets of our state agencies and requiring the governor to reduce by 102 the number of exempt positions in the administration. These savings will be achievable without layoffs, furloughs or salary reductions for state workers. Taken together, the entire package achieves solvency for our state budget while reducing recurring expenditures by more than $200 million.
Finally, on the issue of new revenues, I led the fight in the House to have revenue bills considered. I introduced three revenue bills and argued strenuously that they should be considered. Unfortunately, because the governor’s proclamation failed to contain a call to pass new revenue bills, my proposals could not be heard. Though this restriction tied our hands and limited the options to balance the budget, we still found a solution. I will attempt during our next session to raise new revenue so that we can achieve long-term stability in our budget.
On a personal note, I was surprised how difficult the session was. The decisions were heart-wrenching, but I am certain that the legislature did all it could to maintain its responsibility to run our government while minimizing the impact of the budget shortfall on our citizens. I am deeply honored to represent district 47 in the House, and appreciate all the message of support before and during the session. in January we will again have to face hard budget decisions, and I hope to have your input.