News in Brief

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Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. of Connecticut has beat back an attempt by lawmakers to repeal the state income tax he pushed through the legislature last summer after weeks of bitter debate.

Meeting in a special session, legislators voted last month to approve a budget plan that would have repealed the 4.5 percent wage tax that has been in effect since October. The Governor refused to accept the plan, however, and neither house had enough votes to override his veto.

"This legislation is far more than repeal of a tax on income," Mr. Weicker said in rejecting what he called another "conventional" budget that relied too much on the state's high sales and corporate taxes. "It represents full-scale surrender to fiscal gimmicks and political fantasies that, in the past, crippled our economic vitality."

In the face of widespread public protest, Mr. Weicker has fought for the income tax, which he argues is fairer to low-income citizens and better for business.

"We are all at sea in the small ship that is Connecticut," the Governor said. "We have set our course, and I remain confident that it will take us to safe harbor."

The legislature reconvenes the first week in February, with the state still facing a projected $175-million deficit.

Minn. Judge Rules Against School-Finance System

Major provisions of Minnesota's school-finance formula are unconstitutional because they discriminate against school districts with poor tax bases, a state judge has ruled.

In his Dec. 17 ruling, Wright County District Court Judge Gary J. Meyer primarily took issue with three elements of the school-finance law: a referendum levy allowing districts to obtain additional operating funds through local property taxes; a debt- service levy used by districts to pay for new building projects; and supplemental state aid provided to districts based on their past expenditures.

Because they favor high-spending districts with wealthy tax bases, the provisions violate the state constitution's mandate for "a general and uniform system of public schools," Judge Meyer said.

"What is unconstitutional is the unequal capability of school districts to access discretionary revenues due to property-wealth differences, which is the underlying cause of a system which is not uniform," he wrote.

The ruling, capping the end to the longest civil trial in state history, was hailed by lawyers for the 52 districts that brought suit in the case.

But Commissioner of Education Gene Mammenga said it was "virtually certain" the state would appeal the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

In another education-related case last month, the state's highest court invalidated three line-item vetoes used by Gov. Arue Carlson to cancel out $30 million in higher-education funding. The court said the vetoes were illegal because they referred to "estimated expenditures" rather than "items of appropriation or money."

The Massachusetts legislature has authorized $30 million in emergency aid to help bail out some of the state's most financially devastated school districts.

Gov. William F. Weld was preparing late last month to sign the bill, which also authorizes $2.7 million to rectify some of the flaws in the state's school-choice law. The funding will restore a proportion of the state aid that districts that have lost students to schools in other communities were in jeopardy of forfeiting. (See Education Week, Nov. 27, 1991.)

The emergency aid was spurred by reports of financial deprivation as a result of cuts in state aid and voters' unwillingness to override local spending caps.

A New York State judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by 21 Long Island school districts challenging alleged school-finance inequities.

While agreeing that funding inequities existed, Supreme Court Justice Robert Roberto Jr. last month ruled that they were not sufficiently glaring to be in violation of the state or federal constitutions.

In his ruling, the judge said he had relied on a decision nine years ago by the state's highest court, which declared that school funding was a decision for the legislature, not the judiciary, to make.

Gov. Booth Gardner of Washington State has proposed to eliminate a projected $890-million budget gap by rescinding pay raises to teachers and dipping into a state "rainy day" fund.

The Governor's plan to eliminate the projected shortfall in the state's biennial budget, which will be considered by the legislature when it starts a new session this month, would reduce the amount earmarked for education by about $130 million. About half of the saving would be realized by rescinding a 3.6 percent pay hike for teachers scheduled to start next September.

Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York has vetoed a measure requiring all schools to provide an hour of anti-drug and alcohol instruction every week.

State law currently requires schools to provide this instruction, but does not prescribe the amount of time that must be devoted to it.

Vol. 11, Issue 16, Page 36

Published in Print: January 8, 1992, as News in Brief
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