Education is center stage these days [UPDATED]Published 10:39am Thursday, October 24, 2013 Updated 12:49pm Thursday, October 24, 2013
I have some education-related items to pass along as the annual Education Minnesota break takes place this week.
But, before I get into that, the Nornes family sends condolences to the Grams family after the recent passing of Rod Grams, the former congressman and senator. He and I crossed paths many times over the years and had the common bond of backgrounds in broadcasting. Rod was a genuine man and will remain missed by many.
Walk to school day
Congratulations to those who made International Walk to School Day a success Oct. 9. Wife Joyce and I participated in the Perham event, handing out apples to students on their route. The Perham-Dent School District and PartnerSHIP4Health led the initiative and the Perham hospital provided the apples.
Walk to School Day began in 1997 as a way to build awareness for the need for walkable communities and to promote exercise. I haven’t seen statistics for this year’s walk, but around 30 Minnesota cities participated in 2012. Let’s hope this event continues to grow.
Responsible budgeting pays dividends
The books closed June 30 on the two-year budget Republicans set in 2011. That year, we inherited around $2 billion in delayed payments to our schools enacted by Democrat majorities in the Legislature and Gov. Tim Pawlenty. We also faced a budget shortfall of around $5 billion back then.
The budget we enacted not only produced around $3.4 billion in more-than-expected revenue, but we trimmed the balance owed to schools down to $238 million.
Gov. Dayton and fellow Democrats are now trying to take credit for having paid down money owed to our schools. The fact is, this pay-down is the result of policies we enacted in 2011 that led to an economic resurgence driven by responsible spending, business growth and people returning to work.
Tax changes hit students, educators
It is disappointing that students and educators in Minnesota will be hit in the pocket book because of tax decisions Gov. Mark Dayton and fellow Democrats made earlier this year. They failed to match Minnesota’s code with federal provisions and here are a examples of state tax deductions you may lose as a result:
• Tuition Taxes: Those of you who claim an above-the-line deduction for tuition and fees on federal forms will need to add that amount back onto your income on state filings. Furthermore, Minnesota did not fully adopt the federal exclusion for employer-provided education assistance. Many Minnesota taxpayers will now have to report this income on their state filings.
• Teacher Expense Tax: Teachers often use their own money to make sure their classrooms have all of the necessary class supplies. Educators are allowed to deduct the first $250 in out-of-pocket expenses for purchasing classroom materials on their federal returns. However, dedicated Minnesota teachers will not be able to deduct these expenses on state forms.
• Scholarship Tax: You may exclude awards you receive from a number of national scholarship and financial assistance programs from your income on federal returns. Now these awards – including some for military veterans – will be taxed by Minnesota and must be included as income on state forms.
• Education Savings Tax: The federal government allows taxpayers to deduct distributions from a Coverdell Education Savings Account for elementary and secondary schooling. Minnesota taxpayers now must add these distributions to their income if used for K-12 education expenses.
• Student Loan Tax: Several federal provisions allow deductions for student loan interest. Minnesota taxpayers will not be able to deduct this interest when it’s paid either voluntarily or after the first 60 months that interest payments are required on the loan.