03 June 2009

Floor action, Jun. 3: SB 37, SB 335

SB 37 by Sen. Jack Donahue would allow nonelected boards a limit of 2.5 percent roll forward on millage rates without voter approval going through the governing authority that appoints to the boards. Donahue championed the bill saying that after this limit officials who only were directly responsible to the people through elections should be able to raise this. It had been amended not to apply to all governing authorities.

Sen. Yvonne Dorsey offered an amendment to exempt fire districts from it. Donahue said this violated the premise of the bill that nonelected officials should not be able unilaterally to increase the millages past 2.5 percent. Sen. A.G. Crowe supported him, saying this was an accountability issue. In response, Dorsey said this should be a local issue and questioned the accountability aspect. Crowe explained the latter had to do with voter control. Dorsey attempted to draw a comparison with high state appointees with their authority, not seeming to realize they had no appropriation power unlike these boards. The amendment passed 18-11.

Donahue then said he would return the bill to the calendar, and expressed disappointment at the vote.

SB 335 would delay a tax decrease that began earlier this year for three years, for those taxpayers that can deduct for “excess” deductions. Author Sen. Lydia Jackson said it would affect only a “small” amount of money, was not a real “tax” because the deduction had not been restored, and that she planned on getting whatever revenue was raised to fund higher education. To that end, she had an amendment to create a fund that then could be used to be drawn from to do that, which was adopted without objection.

Sen. Buddy Shaw pointed out that the deferral actually would be for less than three years since the budget year already had started. He also said this legislation would be hypocritical as a kind of bait-and-switch. He also disputed that it was not a “tax” because he said it had been promised and now this was getting reneged. Sen. Robert Adley admitted perhaps he was a “hypocrite” but the taxpayer still was better off than he had been even with this deferral.

Sen. Bob Kostelka said those “talk show hosts” and anonymous “editorial writers” didn’t have the guts to make the hard decisions they were going to make like on this bill. He claimed to abhor taxes and called upon higher education to reform itself, but said “drastic” cuts to education were too much and would take a long time to overcome, even as he admitted the efforts probably would be in “vain” since both the House and governor expressed opposition to it.

Sen. Jody Amedee claimed he didn’t like it, but asserted there was no other plan so he would go for it, too. He thought it might change the minds of opponents to pass it. Sen. Mike Michot said the measure would buy time for higher education to reform without retarding past progress.

Jackson closed by relating personal stories about students going to college. Again, tying the bill’s passage to higher education funding, and said a positive vote would show support to the concept of higher education. The bill passed 29-9.

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