OGDEN AND SHAPIRO DISCUSS PROGRESS OF TAX AND EDUCATION REFORM PACKAGE
Two key leaders in the Senate's effort to improve the state of public education and reduce local school property taxes spoke today about the progress of one of the most important parts of the package, House Bill 1. HB 1 is still in the Senate Finance Committee as Senators try to reach a compromise on the issues of school equity and recapture. This bill also contains provisions to use part of the current budget surplus to buy down the property tax rate by 17 cents per $100 valuation.
Committee Chair Steve Ogden said that the committee will take up and consider HB 1 at a hearing Friday morning, and then try to pass it on to the Senate Floor. One of the major issues is how to handle the so-called "Robin Hood" system of school finance, where property-wealthy districts send money to poorer districts in order to create financial balance.
HB 1 sponsor Florence Shapiro does not want this process to be frozen by the debate over recapture. She says there is simply not enough time left in the special session, set to end on May 16, to solve such a complex issue. "There is a system for financing our schools that is broken and must be fixed. Can we fix it today? No. This is a system that must be addressed and we must be able to do it, and the next two weeks is not enough time to fix this. My feeling is let's leave it the status quo, let's work on it during the next few months in the interim, before we come back in January, let's get everybody to the table and find a new system," she said.
HB 5, which would add a dollar to the tax-per-pack for cigarettes, is also before the Finance committee. Ogden said that the committee will not consider any other bills before it passes out HB 1, because that is the only bill that will solve the current Supreme Court challenge about meaningful discretion. "House Bill 1 has to pass in order for us to satisfactorily address the Supreme Court deadline on June 1. Frankly, HB 5 doesn't, which is not to suggest that we won't act on it, but as a matter of priority, we're going to work on the bill that has to pass," he said. He did say that he was confident that the Finance Committee will pass out some sort of cigarette tax bill.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, May 8, at 2 p.m.