It’s a lot of waiting around at the capitol these days, which means the budget is right around the corner.
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Before we get to all things budget, some good news: I can now confirm that my bill around suicide prevention training, SB 1391, has been added to the governor’s overall school safety plan. It’s largely the same (the only main provision that was removed was the need for the training to be in person, and not online), and I’m grateful for its inclusion in the overall plan.
We were supposed to hear the bill, SB 1519, in the Senate Commerce and Public Safety committee yesterday, but the hearing was canceled late last week. Rumor is the plan doesn’t have the votes in the House, with many conservative Republicans wanting to move the plan further to the right.
I would like to see the bill improved before I make a decision on how to vote. The main thing I’d like to see is more funding for school counselors, meaning dollars that schools could use to go out and hire counselors to work in the schools full time. I’ve offered over and over again to work with the governor’s office on this, but as of right now we are not being included in the discussions.
So as of now, there is no time table for when the bill will return. I now this is important to the governor, so I expect it to come through in some form, either good or bad, before we adjourn the session.
The governor made quite the splash last Thursday by announcing a plan for a ten percent pay raise for teachers this upcoming school year, another five percent the following year, and another five percent in the fall of 2020. That adds up to a twenty percent raise by the fall of 2020.
Consider us surprised at the whiplash response: earlier this year, the governor unveiled his budget blueprint and the only thing it had around teacher salaries was making the one percent stipend from last year permanent!
What’s the reason for the turnaround? Well, it’s an election year, for one. Most importantly, though, is the impact that the Red for Ed movement has had on the conversation – pressure works, especially in an election year. After attending several walk-in’s last week at three separate LD18 schools, I can tell you that the energy is real, and it deserves a lot of the credit for getting the governor to move so quickly.
We are still waiting to hear the details of the plan, mainly where this money is going to come from. Doing a ten percent raise this year would require hundreds of millions of dollars, funds that we were told didn’t exist as of a week ago. Our state revenue projections have crept up recently, which is good news, and will certainly make up some of the funds. We’ll be watching, however, to see if the funds come out of other areas like health care and university funding.
I’m also concerned that the plan would only help our teachers, and leave out other important school personnel like counselors, nurses, teacher’s aides, and other support staff. They were also left out of the one percent stipend from last year, which many of us spoke out about at the time.
As was the case last year, I want to see the budget and read through it before I decide how to vote. There are issues I care about that I want funded, like community colleges, support for the developmentally disabled, and funding for the arts. I owe it to my constituents to examine the budget in full before making a decision, and looking it over one section at a time.
At the end of the day, my vote on the budget will be solely focused on what is best for my district, and nothing else. It’s what my constituents elected me to do, and I take that responsibility very seriously.
As far as timing goes, if you had asked me last week, I would have said we would adjourn the session the last week of April. After the last couple of days, I think the first week of May is more appropriate. We just have too many big issues left to resolve to wrap up this week or even next week, I think. So even though it’s an election year, I don’t think we’ll be getting out earlier. For a point of comparison, last year we adjourned on May 10th.
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Yours in the fight,