Found: $7-Million For Public Schools

Jun 2, 2016

Senator Eric LaFleur looks over changes to the Supplemental Appropriations bill
Credit Sue Lincoln

While most of the attention this session has been on the $600-million hole in the upcoming budget, earlier today, the full Senate did their part to balance the current year’s budget, which ends June 30th. They passed what’s known as the “Supplemental Appropriations” bill.

But first, Senate Finance chairman Eric LaFleur offered a surprise amendment.

“The shortfall in the MFP – the supplemental MFP that we passed last year – that is taken care of,” LaFleur announced, adding, “It came out of committee with the burden being born by the public schools system. This amendment would correct that.”

The amendment added $7 million from the State General Fund to the current year’s MFP – the basic funding for public schools.

Where did they find the money?

“It comes from the escrow funds from the Attorney General’s office,” LaFleur explained. “There’s approximately 30 million dollars in there. There was money being earned from settlement proceeds and a couple of other things that was kind of off record.”

Last week, there had been mentions of a $29.7-million escrow account connected to the A.G.’s office. Since then, the Division of Administration has been digging for details.

Senator Jim Fannin had  a number of questions:

“We took seven? So the rest of it’s still in escrow?” Fannin asked LaFleur. “So there’s no other way, no other process by which we get that? Or is it committed? Do we know?”

“We’re slowly finding out how it’s all committed,” LaFleur responded. “This was money that we didn’t know about, and so we’re trying to provide an accounting for it. We know a portion of this is available. Some of the proceeds are dedicated to other items, and hopefully we’ll know more between now and next week -- what it’s all available for.”

$7-miilion: the same amount the A.G. grabbed from the BP settlement, before it could be put into the Coastal Fund.