[post_thumbnail]Sen. Dean Cameron presents education bill on the Senate floor.
The Idaho Legislature Thursday passed a bill to fund the state’s K-12 public schools for the 2013-14 school year. Senate Bill 1200, legislation that serves as the funding companion to a bill approved Wednesday dealing with education policy and program legislation, passed in both the Senate and the House as the Legislature prepared to close out its 2013 session.
The vote in the Senate was 29-5; in the House it was 57-11. Legislators thus approved a $1.3 billion appropriation that is basically identical in cost to the bill the Senate rejected last week.
Last week, the anticipated end of the legislative session was disrupted when the Senate rejected the upcoming school year’s education funding bill. Despite how eager both the House and Senate members were to finish their session’s work, and despite the overwhelming majority support for Senate Bill 1200, a lively debate over the bill nonetheless ensued in both chambers, with strong remarks made in opposition to it.
“This is a modest budget,” noted Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, as he presented the bill to the full Senate. “It is nonetheless 4.4 percent more than we had budgeted in 2009. It is a post-referendum budget (the first state education budget in the aftermath of last year’s defeat of ballot Propositions 1, 2 and 3).”
“I have voted ‘no’ on every appropriations bill for the sake of making a statement,” Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, said during debate. Nonini noted that the bill allows for a greater increase for the funding of employee benefits than it does for the expansion of teacher salaries, and stated that “the continued expansion of benefits costs is unsustainable, and we need to address this. That’s why I am voting ‘no.’”
“This is certainly not a happy going-home bill,” Rep. John Gannon, D-Boise, commented. “This only provides a 2.2 percent increase, and yet constituents across the state are telling us that they want more money for our schools. This is bad news for both our schools, and property tax payers.”
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