After four days of working through 1,400 proposed amendments, the House on April 26 approved a $41 billion state budget plan for fiscal 2019 that would provide a $37.2 million increase for the main municipal aid account and a $125 million increase for Chapter 70 education aid.
 
The plan would bring the total for the two most important local government accounts to nearly $6 billion next year.
 
Over the course of budget week, House members approved 10 major spending amendments that added about $80 million to the House budget committee’s recommendation, including a variety of state and local capital projects and targeted program funding. House members generally avoided adding major policy items to the budget bill and did not approve proposed amendments that were opposed by the MMA related to municipal health insurance.
 
State budget activity now moves to the Senate, which has announced that its budget committee recommendation will be released on May 10 and debate will begin on Monday, May 21.
 
The House bill matches the governor’s proposed $1.1 billion for Unrestricted General Government Aid, providing an increase of 3.5 percent – the same rate as the projected growth in state tax collections next year.
 
Funding for Chapter 70 education aid would grow by 2.6 percent, to $4.9 billion, and every school district would receive an increase of at least $30 per student (compared to the $20 per student amount in the governor’s proposed budget).
 
The House bill included an increase of $19 million for the special education circuit breaker account, for a total of $300 million, although the account is still projected to be underfunded heading into fiscal 2019.
 
The House also added $2 million for regional school transportation. The new $64 million total for the regional school transportation account was reached after more than two dozen House members signed onto amendments to increase the original budget committee proposal.
 
The budgets filed by the governor and approved by the House would both substantially underfund the charter school impact mitigation account next year.  The House plan would provide $90 million, which is $9.5 million more than the governor’s recommendation to level-fund the program at $80.5 million. Both proposals are far below the amount necessary to fully fund the statutory formula that was established to offset a portion of the funding that communities are required to transfer to charter schools. The shortfall would grow to an estimated $77 million in fiscal 2019.
 
The House budget would level-fund payments in lieu of taxes at $27 million.
 

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