Senate Budget Amendments, Round 1, Part 1

Hey Budget Watchers! We’ve been offline for a few hours and just catching up on all the amendments in the Senate budget. There is a ton of interesting stuff, but for the sake of not staying up all night until we’ve documented every last item, we link you to this helpful document from the Senate with a summary of all the amendments. In the meantime, we’ve summarized some of the items that are receiving notice in the papers and blogosphere tonight. We know we missed some so we’ll do a part two of this post tomorrow, but here’s some bedtime reading to get you started.

What’s in the Budget – Senate Edition, Part 1 of a few…

Increased Funding:

  • $115 million more for schools; increases foundation funding to districts to at least the levels of Fiscal Year 2011 (state funds only; districts still lose federal stimulus and the bill continues the Governor’s cuts to TPP/KWH tax replacement) and creates a new $28 million bonus pool distributed only to districts rated “excellent” or above (merit pay for schools?)
  • $100 million more for local governments (don’t tell the Governor); also protects smaller counties by ensuring that no county receives less than $750,000 in local government funds
  • $15 million for PASSPORT program to provide home health care to seniors
  • Expanded tax credits for historic preservation and job creation

Reversal of Kasich

  • restores funding to the Consumers Counsel (see earlier post)
  • requires legislative approval to privatize the Turnpike (we still think this proposal has problems)

Reversal of House amendments

  • removes merit pay for teachers that resembles language contained in Senate Bill 5
  • removes the gag on the Consumers’ Counsel that prevents them from operating a call center or taking certain positions on natural gas issues
  • removes charter school amendments that benefited David Brennan and eliminated accountability and transparency; adds a provision that prevents sponsors from opening new charter schools if less than 80 percent of their existing schools are failing
  • removes amendment that would have allowed thousands more dropouts to be eligible for low-performing and high-cost for-profit dropout recovery schools (see previous post)
  • removes the moratorium on new e-schools (which the House put back into place), effectively ending the monopoly held by a small number of mostly ineffective e-schools in place since 2005
  • eliminates a House provision that set aside $50 million each year for incentive grants to local governments for sharing services and instead directs it toward increased local government funding without strings.
  • removes House provision to exempt e-school students from immunization requirements

New statements of policy by the Senate

  • creates a tax expenditure review committee (a deliberately unsexy way of describing a review of loopholes worth killing), something we discussed before
  • requires the privatization of the State Lottery by 2012 (see Plunderbund post)
  • allows the sale of beer up to 18% alcohol, formerly limited to 12% (it’s been a good budget year for drinkers, that’s for sure!)
  • reverses a recently-passed law that limits the sale of high-calorie and high-fat milk sold in public and charter schools

Status Quo (what didn’t change)

  • Casinos got no relief from the Commercial Activity Tax on gross wagering
  • The estate tax is still going away
  • Nursing homes still didn’t get any more money (though we expect that’s coming in conference committee, where negotiations are REALLY non-transparent–not only will you not know which member sponsored a change, you won’t even know which body: senate, house or executive)
  • Just like their colleagues in the executive branch and the House, the GOP-controlled Senate didn’t put a penny away for a rainy day, opting to spend all the tax and privatization revenue they could get their hands on.
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