Democrats look to pay back $2 billion IOU

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

The little slips of paper school children carry in their hands could be permission slips — or IOUs for $2.2 billion.

Democratic lawmakers offered a “pay our kids back” school funding bill Monday, that looks to close to perceived tax loopholes in foreign operating corporation tax law to pay back $2.2 billion in school funding legislative leaders have borrowed in crafting recent state budget solutions.

“The kids in our state now hold $2.2 billion in IOUs and it’s time now to do the right thing,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, house bill author, at a Capitol press conference.

Winkler, Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, look to the same perceived pot of money that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton also eyes to fund his business tax credit for hiring unemployed veterans or newcomers to the job market.

But Winkler argues the school children deserve the $450 million a year Sieben and he hope to reap through the tax law changes, because promises were made by state officials about paying back the borrowed money.

The lawmakers were supported by a crowd of adults and children at the press conference — some of the young children clutching piggy banks  — who spoke of school funding crunches in their school district and how it impacted the children.

Bill Dial, whose children attend the North Branch Public Schools, read a provision in the state constitution that stresses the importance of education in a democracy.

He argued the constitutional mandate has been trampled.

His school district is down to a four-day school weeks and an eight-year drought in passage of referendums has turned district residents against each other.

“We need to look at this as our future,” Dial said of school funding.

“And we need to invest in this,” he said.

Jess Buttleman of Mondota Heights, a junior at Henry-Sibley High School in Mondota Heights, said he likes school but also spoke of big classes and limited face time with teachers.

“Some day the adults making all of these (budget) decisions will need us to take care of them,” he warned.

Sieben and Winkler look through their legislation to repay the $2 billion in school borrowing over the course of about five years.

Winkler indicated he had not spoken to Dayton about the bill, but cited the governor’s campaign promise about providing significantly more funding to schools every year he served as governor.

While noting their legislation had support among some Democratic lawmakers, Winkler indicated he had not spoken to Republican leaders about the bill.