A deal to end the Minnesota shutdown is still being hammered out, but the broad agreement is clear – it’s not going to be anything but a punt until the next one. We all expected that left and right would both hate the compromise, but in a stunning twist both sides hate the deal for the same reason – it’s all gimmicks and passes on real reform.
No one reasonably expected major reform in this bill, given the late hour, but there isn’t even the promise of any later on down the road. That means it’s up to us, the citizens of Minnesota, to push for something before next January.
The plan has many horrible features, but the main one is that it relies on more delayed payments to school districts. The existing delay of about 10% of a district’s budget is increased to 30%, meaning you can take the previous analysis and roughly triple it until we get better numbers. Borrowing will make up the difference, something that small districts and charter schools may find nearly impossible. We won’t be able to do this forever. We have to find a solution one way or another.
The big problems in our budget are these three:
1) Changing state demographics, which is to say that the Baby Boom generation is moving towards retirement, among other things, which makes for more dependent people per worker than before.
2) A reliance on formulas to put most of the budget on “auto-pilot” over the last 20 years.
3) The use of one-time revenue sources to balance budget holes for about 6 years.
Many are calling for a “Blue Ribbon Task Force” of political, civic, and business leaders to get together in a very public way and craft a new system that gets us past these problems. I suggested the Citizen’s League be heavily involved as a way to make sure that more ordinary Minnesotans get a voice in the process.
I was wrong when I guessed that such a thing would serve as a way out of the budget problems for this year. But sooner or later we’ll run out of money to shift and push around and have to do something like this. Why not now?
There are a lot of ideas floating around, some of which have made it into the press. If you know of other calls and ideas please post them in comments so that we can gather them in one place. Meanwhile, how do we start getting organized to make something like this happen?