Lame Duck 2018 OVER

We are pleased to report that, just after 8a on Friday, Dec. 21, the Legislature adjourned, ending the 2018 Lame Duck session.

While we certainly had some losses, including the School Aid Fund raid executed overnight (see below), of note the Legislature took no final action on union release time, union recertification elections, exclusive representation, or broader threats to collective bargaining. 

Other than the A-F bill (which was seriously watered down) and the loss of a potential $95 per pupil for next year (which wouldn’t have made much of a dent in the nearly $2,000 per pupil shortfall – an issue about which we’ll be working hard with our new governor over the coming months), MEA survived Lame Duck without significant damage…something difficult to imagine 4 weeks ago as we faced a true lame duck legislature and the political power shifts coming out of the election.

This Lame Duck saw nearly 400 bills pass and head to the governor for signature – many of which the governor has not signed yet. Between now and the New Year, we’ll be monitoring which bills become law and which may be vetoed as Snyder heads for the exits, including the few executive power grab bills that did pass this past week. As President Herbart said in her Detroit News column on Wednesday, “[Snyder] can choose to listen to the voices of millions of voters – or bow to the vengeful wishes of defeated politicians tearing down our democratic institutions on their way out the door. The state is watching, and history will remember.”

After the holiday break, we will do a more in-depth analysis of the bills that do become law related to education and labor issues – but with nearly 400 bills to wade through, that will take some time to complete.

For now, we want to thank all our members who took the time to contact lawmakers this month. We know the calls and emails may feel like they don’t work, but they absolutely make a difference in our ability to stop (or improve) bad legislation. THANK YOU to everyone who helped mobilize our members to be part of the fight for our students, our schools and our profession!

 

School Aid Tax Shift Passes in Late Night Session

Just prior to 2 a.m., the State House barely passed HB 4991, a bill which was used to move a Lame Duck raid of School Aid Fund tax revenue in favor of increased funding for road and environmental projects. The Senate concurred in the amended bill, and both chambers acted early this morning on a supplemental appropriations bill to spend this and other surplus revenue before the new Whitmer administration can propose a new budget.

The bill reduces the amount of income tax earmarked for the School Aid Fund to offset increased revenue from the online sales tax that goes directly to the SAF. Similar to the shell game where Lottery revenue goes to schools only to allow other revenue to flow elsewhere, this measure would reduce the revenue in the SAF available to fund K-12 schools.

This is NOT a cut to current per pupil funding – the additional funding from the online sales tax had not been appropriated yet and is not part of this  year’s budgeted state school aid payments. However, it IS money that should have gone into the School Aid Fund to allow for increases in coming years.

The bill includes an amendment that would “hold harmless” the current overall level of school funding if revenues fall below projections. However, in a textbook example of late night Lame Duck legislating, a proposed three-year sunset on the legislation morphed into a sunset on the hold harmless language – not the tax shift.

In the end, the lost revenue could have translated to per pupil increases of $95 in 2018-19, $117 in 2019-20 and $120 in 2020-21. While those amounts would not have closed the nearly $2,000 shortfall in per pupil funding identified by the School Finance Research Collaborative, this legislation yet again prioritizes funding other projects over the education of Michigan’s children. We will be hard at work with the incoming Whitmer administration to address our broken school funding system and ensure our students get the adequate funding they deserve.

Thanks to all the MEA members who contacted lawmakers to oppose this tax shift, which passed in the House with the bare majority of votes needed. The pressure from back home made this a difficult vote for legislators to take, and prompted strong remarks from opponents, including Republican Rep. Martin Howrylak of Troy, who remarked on the floor about the unwise nature of the legislation and the amendment sunsetting the hold harmless provision.  Howrlyak initially sponsored the original version of HB 4991, but had his name stripped as a sponsor (along with several other colleagues) when the bill was used as a vehicle for the tax shift.