State Journal: Hanging on; Full disclosure; Storm clouds

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As part of his effort to reduce the state bureaucracy, Gov. Walter J. Hickel of Alaska recently used his line-item veto to eliminate most of the funding for the state's Professional Teaching Practices Commission.

But commission members contend that their panel was established by state law, and can only be abolished by a specific legislative action.

"We feel the statute says we still exist," said Sanna Green, the panel's executive secretary. "We are trying to hang on."

Commissioners also contend that once its budget is set, the panel is free to spend its money as it sees fit. So they made plans to carry on their business by teleconference out of the basement of Ms. Green's home.

That plan hit a snag, though, when the state froze its funds. Nevertheless, the commission plans to try to close out three cases.

Meanwhile, other state officials have been meeting to decide how to rein in the agency.

When Missouri voters go to the polls this fall to decide on a $385-million referendum on education, they should be clearly told that they are going to have to pay for it, a judge has ruled.

The legislature this year agreed to put on the November ballot a package that calls for a series of school reforms, to be funded by a tax increase.

A legislative panel wrote a summary of the proposal to be placed on the ballot, which by law cannot exceed 35 words.

The original summary said the proposal "establishes a special fund" for reforms, but did not say that the money for the fund would come from a tax hike.

Critics of the plan thought that amounted to less than full disclosure, and filed suit.

Circuit Court Judge A.J. Seier agreed, and this month ordered officials to tack on the words "with additional tax revenues."

One session at the annual meeting of the Education Commission of the States in Denver this month was focused on paying for school reforms during tough fiscal times.

Gov. Zell Miller of Georgia noted that even though his state's fiscal year has just begun, storm clouds are gathering.

Lawmakers adjourned this spring relieved that education had escaped without cuts. But now, Mr. Miller said, forecasts show a $400-million shortfall.

The first-year Governor quipped that the long-term financial outlook also is provoking some personal concern.

"We can't have too many more years like this because I'll be up for re-election," he said.

--mw & lh

Vol. 10, Issue 40

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