Assembly considers rainy day funds for K-12, higher ed

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee was asked Wednesday to create rainy day funds for both K-12 and higher education.

Assembly Bill 241 by Assembly-woman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, would sweep the unspent general fund appropriations to those two levels of education into an emergency reserve for times of economic crisis.

The budget office budgets 2 percent of all general fund appropriations to revert to the state at the end of each fiscal year in recognition of the fact it is nearly impossible for agencies at any level to spend every dime of their funding.

In the case of K-12 that is just over $36 million. For the university system, it would be about $14.8 million over the biennium.

Smith said the K-12 budget has been cut back $176 million in the 2009 fiscal year and another $287 million by the special session a year ago.

She said higher education has had cuts totaling $450 million.

Traditionally, K-12 has the largest amount of money to revert to the state.

Smith said her plan would allow education to keep a major portion of those reversions.

In the case of the university system, traditionally almost no money reverts to the state because the campuses spend state money before dipping into their other revenue sources.

Smith said her legislation would encourage the system to do things differently because they would get to keep the money.

Overall, she said the bill would encourage both school districts and the university system to plan long term. Her bill, she said, "will reward and not punish long-term planning and responsibility."

The committee took no action on the proposal.


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