Signs point to K-12 budget deal (UPDATED)

(UPDATED, 10:37 a.m., with comments from Senate floor.)

Do legislators have a deal to set the 2013-14 public school budget — and end the 2013 legislative session?

Here’s one important sign.

The House and Senate education committees have scheduled a public meeting Wednesday to discuss public schools budget legislation. The hearing is slated for 8 a.m. in the Statehouse’s Lincoln Auditorium.

This public hearing is a key point for senators who voted down the first proposed public schools budget last week — including the seven Republicans on the Senate Education Committee. These opponents said the proposal, and the budget-writing Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, overstepped its bounds by earmarking money for programs such as merit pay, professional development and technology.

This hearing also is one of several steps in a compressed 48-hour schedule that could yield a budget.

Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls

On the Senate floor Tuesday morning, Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, laid out a timetable that could lead to adjournment by Thursday:

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  • The Senate State Affairs Committee will meet Tuesday, likely in the morning, to introduce, or “print,” legislation on the $1.3 billion spending plan.
  • If that legislation is printed, the education committees would hold a hearing on it Wednesday.
  • If the committees sign on, the Senate would vote on this bill Wednesday morning — with the hope of passing the bill and sending it to the House.
  • After that, JFAC would still have a role to play. The committee would meet Wednesday, likely for the last time this session, and draw up the actual spending bill.
  • The Senate would vote on the JFAC budget Thursday morning — again, with hopes of sending it along to the House.

“We believe that a path forward has been agreed upon,” said Davis.

The Legislature can move very quickly in the closing days — especially on a bill, like the public schools budget, that is the linchpin to adjournment. The signs indicate that a deal is moving along.

Keep an eye on Idaho Education News, and this blog, for the latest updates.

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