Back in January, I grumbled that SB 91, Senator Russell Olson's (R-8/Madison) plan to let schools use some capital outlay funds for energy costs, actually infringed on schools' budget flexibility by extending this privilege only to schools who capped their capital outlay tax levies at 2008 levels.
Evidently the State House didn't care for that restriction either. On Wednesday the House amended SB 91 to allow any school to benefit, regardless of whether they raise the capital outlay levy. Schools still can't jack up their levy to grab more revenue for fuel costs; SB 91 still limits the amount schools can transfer to 45% of the capital outlay revenues that would have come in under the 2008 levy.
The House version gives schools a little more fiscal freedom, but it also shortens the time frame for schools to make this creative use of capital outlay from five years of the original bill to three years. (See, Governor Rounds? Our Legislature is perfectly capable of using sunset clauses.)
Now it's on to the Governor, who should have a hard time thinking of a reason to veto one of Russ Olson's centerpiece bills. As electricity prices rise, and if diesel starts climbing again, the Legislature has given schools some welcome budget breathing room.
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