Governor Assails Property-Tax Measure, Calls for Sales Levy for Oregon Schools
Gov. Barbara Roberts of Oregon has taken office with a pledge to blunt the fiscal impact of Ballot Measure Five, the property-tax-cut initiative approved by voters last fall, and a call for a school-funding sales tax as "a more responsible version of major property-tax relief.''
"[W]hen Oregonians feel the weight of the ax they wielded in November, they will realize they did far more than give themselves a tax break," Governor Roberts said in her inaugural address this month. "They will have cost other Oregonians their lives, and their livelihood."
Measure Five "will slowly--over the next six years--cripple Oregon and put it permanently on the economic back burner," she said.
But the initiative "will not topple this administration," Ms. Roberts vowed. "Nor will I allow it to cripple state government."
The constitutional amendment, passed with 52 percent of the vote, limits property taxes to $25 per $1,000 of assessed valuation this year and drops that amount to $15 per $1,000 in five years, with local school funding bearing the full brunt of the reduction.
The amendment also requires legislators to replace $3.7 billion in property-tax revenues over the next five years with state funds.
"Let's take the cost of schools completely off the property tax and fund them with an Oregon sales tax," Ms. Roberts said. Although she did not propose a specific level in her speech, the Governor called for a 5-cent sales tax during her campaign.--ps
Branstad Moves to Fulfill Pledge on Teacher Raises
Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa began this month to make good on his campaign pledge to raise teacher salaries by asking the legislature for $2.7 million to fund an increase in the minimum pay level.
"We should ... fulfill our commitment to raise teacher salaries to the national average and boost the minimum salary to help attract the best and brightest to the teaching profession," Mr. Branstad said in his inaugural address.
The proposal would raise minimum salaries in the state from $18,000 to $20,000.
Teacher salaries became a heated topic during last year's gubernatorial race after Governor Branstad made his pledge.
Iowa teachers now earn an average of about $29,000 per year, compared with the national average of about $31,000.
In his inaugural address, Governor Branstad reiterated his commitment to reaching that mark despite a budget shortfall, which he said in an earlier State of the State Address has reached $138.2 million.
The two speeches, delivered three days apart, had markedly different tones. In the first, the Governor did not mention teacher salaries or other education programs and warned legislators not to think of new projects.
Three days later, however, he not only discussed teacher salaries, but also reaffirmed his backing of a widely debated telecommunications network linking every school in the state with fiber-optic cables. He has asked the legislature for $5 million for fiscal 1992, out of a total estimated cost of about $70 million. (See Education Week, Jan. 16, 1991.)--jw
Mabus Vows To Try Again To Fund Reform Package
Despite a potential $85-million shortfall during the current fiscal year, Gov. Ray Mabus of Mississippi last week pointed to state-funded health insurance for teachers and equipping elementary-school computer labs as top priorities for next year's budget.
Governor Mabus's State of the State Address dwelt largely on the economic downturn that has already forced cuts totaling $60 million and clouded next year's budget picture.
At the same time, however, the Governor made clear that he has not given up on his education-reform plan, which was passed by the legislature last year but left unfunded even after a bruising special session.
The three-year, $182-million plan should live on, Mr. Mabus said.
"Last year, you overwhelmingly passed education-reform legislation which put Mississippi at the front of the class nationally," he told the lawmakers. "This needs to be implemented. While it may be a little slower in implementation than we would like, we need to begin."
Such programs as health-insurance coverage for teachers and a $1.5-million program establishing computer labs in every elementary school should be funded, he added.
While holding to his pledge not to raise income- or sales-tax rates, the Governor offered to work with lawmakers to revamp the state's budget to better use scant resources.
"This gives us the chance to set priorities in our spending and to take a much closer look at how we spend all our money," he said. "We rarely fix the roof when the sun is shining."--lh
Bangerter Budget Proposes Pay Raises, Class-Size Cuts
While many other states grapple with budget deficits and recession, Utah is in a position "to improve conditions for our children," Gov. Norman H. Bangerter said in his State of the State Address this month.
In his proposed $3.5-billion bud8get for 1992, the Governor recommended a 6.5 percent increase in funding for public education. That would be enough, he said, to provide a 3 percent raise for teachers and a 2 percent spending hike to maintain current health-insurance and retirement benefits.
Last year, state teachers threatened a strike over their compensation package and the legislature's overall commitment to education.
The strike was averted when legislators adopted a package that included a pay raise of about 6 percent.
That package also included establishment of a committee that is currently working to develop a long-range plan for Utah education.
In his speech, Mr. Bangerter made only a brief mention of teacher-salary increases. Instead, he focused on an accountability package passed last year, which includes standardized testing of 5th, 8th, and 11th graders in mathematics, reading, language arts, science, and social studies.
"One of the primary purposes of these tests is to empower parents, teachers, and students," Mr. Bangerter said.
Because of Utah's high child-to-adult ratio, overcrowded classrooms are a perennial issue in the state. The Governor recommended an increase of $4 million next year for class-size reduction in 1st grade, from an average of 25 pupils per class to 22.
Mr. Bangerter said he would like to make a similar commitment next year for reducing class size in 2nd grade, with another grade added each year through 6th grade.--mw
Vol. 10, Issue 19