Friday, December 07, 2007

State Sen. Kirk Schuring Unveils School Funding Reform Proposal

This past Tuesday, to little fanfare, State Senator and Congressional candidate Kirk Schuring unveiled a proposed constitutional amendment to reform school funding. The proposal, now before the General Assembly as Sen. J. Res. 4 creates an earmarked fund for education. To formulate the fund, Schuring essentially takes the current state funding level, and earmarks percentages from a number of funding streams so that, if those earmarks were in place today, the amount in the fund would be the same as the amount currently budgeted for education.


Yes, it is true that the General Assembly played games with funding levels for the couple of budget cycles after the Supreme Court relinquished jurisdiction in the DeRolphe case, and this would limit the legislature's ability to engage in those sorts of shenanigans in the future. But the proposal does not increase the state share and therefore will do little to get districts off the levy treadmill.

The simple, but seemingly impossible solution is to raise some state tax, earmark the hike, and simultaneously fiat a reduction in property taxes for those districts above the 20 mil floor. It's impossible because no Republican can vote for a tax hike even if it results in a tax decrease elsewhere. And even where the tax that was decreased is demonstrably less fair and/or more of a drag on the economy. If he does, he will be clubbed by the Club for Growth crowd.

Exhibit A for this proposition is the number of Republicans who ran against the Commercial Activities Tax last year. Everyone agreed that the tangible personal property tax and the corporate franchise tax were bad taxes and that the CAT is comparatively better. Nonetheless, from Blackwell on down, the tax cut crazies not only campaigned against the CAT, they dishonestly implied that it was a new, freestanding tax.

Exhibit B would be the similar attacks currently leveled against Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primary.

Meanwhile, Shuring wants to run this onto the ballot by going through the GA, but hasn't said if he will have anything to do with a signature campaign.

And we have to consider has been talking about school funding a lot for a Republican for some time. It's possible that he would have rolled this out even if Regula hadn't retired. Nonetheless this will certainly mean something in the campaign. What exactly we can't tell since Schuring's campaign site is [still] under construction. And no response as yet from his primary opponent Matt Miller or Dem hopeful State Sen. John Boccieri.


Rich in Medina said...

Kind of late in commenting on this, but this is very similar to the plan implemented in Michigan,l by a republican governor and republican state legislature. So, I am not certain that it would be lambasted as you state. I lived in Michigan during the 90's and I think most there would say that it was one of the more favorable things John Engler accomplished during his time as the gov.

Pho said...

The big difference between Michigan and Schuring is the new taxes in Michigan. The Michigan ballot issue cut property taxes and raised other taxes to substitute for them. Schuring's plan simply constitutionalizes the current state share which, the more I think about it, is probably worse than nothing. But your point is well taken that a Republican could conceivably advocate a tax swap plan without being pilloried for it. Just hasn't happened lately.