Northern Michigan Schools Legislative Association's analysis of the school funding crisis points towards 70 "tweaks" or small changes that have had the net effect of emptying the school aid fund. These pieces of legislation were mainly obscure, unpublicized deals that meant little to the general public.
As an example, you can look at a bill that got a second reading in the House yesterday, one that would cap the sales tax on gasoline once the retail price of gas reaches $2.30 per gallon. The short term cost of this one to the School Aid Fund is impossible to compute, given that no one know what the price of gas will be, but it is clear that it will be higher over the years as inflation kicks in.
Another bill, passed on Wednesday, changes the income threshold for elderly who need to defer their summer taxes. Cost to the school aid fund is estimated at $2 to $4 million for fiscal year 2004-2005.
Should the state of Michigan take steps to lessen the impact of high gas prices? Should the state of Michigan give elders more time to pay their taxes without penalty? These are not necessarily bad ideas, but it is a bad idea to discuss bills like these without discussing the impact on our public schools.