Sunday, June 26, 2011

Why They Won’t Use the Rainy Day Fund

So you’d think that with public education being under funded for by $4 billion, under funded for the first time in the state’s history, you’d think legislators wouldn’t allow that to happen and you’d think they would plug the budget hole with the Rainy Day Fund – something that the fund’s very existence was meant for.

You’d think that as the state sees thousands of teachers being laid off, schools closed and schoolchildren compressed into classrooms, you’d think they would have freed up funds from the Rainy Day Fund.

You’d think.

But they didn’t. And when Donna Howard’s amendment to use anything above the remaining $6 billion crashed and burned at the end of last week because legislators simply will not budge on using any more of the fund for anything, you have to start wondering what is going on here.

Well the answer appears to be that they won’t release any more of the Rainy Day Fund because those funds are actually already spoken for, but no one is willing to confess that.

In order to balance the 2012-2013 budget, you see, the legislature had to under fund what the state is obligated to pay into Medicaid by $4.8 billion. Now this isn’t the same as under funding education. They actually can’t do that to Medicaid. What is hoped is that the feds will change the law by the time the Medicaid bill comes due and the state’s obligation will be less.

But if the law remains unchanged…well then there’s the Rainy Day Fund to bail the state out.

So there you have it. It makes perfect sense to me now why the state is doing this to public education: the cupboard is bare even though everyone says it isn’t.

The cupboard is bare because the legislature kicked the can down the road hoping that the feds won’t kick it back at them.

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