My two-year daughter has recently discovered a love for puzzles. It’s easy for her to spread everything out all over the floor, but it’s a challenge for her to put the first few pieces back together. Once she gets a good start, the remaining pieces are much easier for her to put into place. The legislative session is not much different.
We have made great progress in recent weeks, and we are now able to move on to filling in the final pieces of the legislative puzzle.
On January 11, the opening day of the 2016 legislative session, I delivered my opening remarks for the first time as Majority Leader and set out House Republicans’ priorities for the session.
In those remarks, I spoke about responsible budgeting; not spending more than the state collects in revenue and not using one-time money for ongoing needs. I also spoke about education funding; the need to set a fiscally responsible increase to K-12 school aid. We set out to to not only provide our schools with additional resources but to make a promise that the state can deliver.
Providing our students with a quality education and ensuring schools have the resources to do so has been and will continue to be a top priority for the House Republican caucus. On January 25, the first bill I brought up for debate as leader was funding for K-12 schools. We have been working since that time to find common ground with the Senate.
On Wednesday, House Republicans passed a bipartisan education funding bill that provides K-12 schools with an additional $153.8 million for the coming fiscal year. With these new funds, 87 percent of all new spending in this year’s budget will be directed to education. To make this level of funding fit within a balanced budget, we will need to make difficult decisions in other important budget areas such as Medicaid and public safety.
Over the past six years with a Republican majority in the House, funding for K-12 schools has increased by $660 million and the number of full-time teachers has increased by 809. Even more importantly, our commitments to education have been fully funded. We have not shifted the burden for more spending on to property taxes.
Now that education funding is set, our caucus is ready to go to work on building a responsible budget for the rest of state government. We expect to soon have joint budget targets with the Senate for each area of funding. Once those targets are set, our budget subcommittees will put the individual line items together. That will bring us another step closer to finalizing the state budget, before adjourning the 2016 legislative session.