[co-authors: Donovan Hurd and Hannah Reichenbach]
The Minnesota Legislature returned from its break Tuesday, April 18 with five weeks to complete their work before May 22, the constitutionally mandated adjournment date. Most of the week was spent appointing conferees for major omnibus finance bills and the tax bill, holding conference committee meetings to review House and Senate positions, and initiating budget negotiations.
Budget Negotiations Begin
Budget negotiations between Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leadership began early this week with an exchange of letters between the Governor and House Speaker Kurt Daudt. On Monday, the Governor sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Speaker Daudt highlighting his concerns with the budget bills passed before the legislative break. The Governor included 55 letters written by his commissioners — which had previously been sent to legislative leaders and committee chairs — detailing numerous policy and budgetary concerns with finance and tax bills. Governor Dayton noted his disappointment with the base level funding cuts to some agencies proposed by the House and Senate, despite a $1.5 billion budget surplus. He authorized commissioners to negotiate on his behalf and made clear that once conference committees have signed their committee reports, the Governor will be open to final negotiations.
On Thursday, Speaker Daudt responded with his own letter. Daudt highlighted three areas of contention:
Base Levels of Funding: The Governor, at minimum, wants the base levels of funding to be retained for every agency. The House GOP says the committees have examined how the state government operates and have proposed both reductions and increases in spending.
Voluntary Pre-K: The Governor wants to expand the Voluntary Pre-K to more schools across the state. The House GOP wants an approach that targets three and four year olds from low income households with early learning scholarships.
Tax Relief: Given the budget surplus, House GOP believes the top priority should be tax relief.
Daudt stated he was optimistic that these differences could be worked out in the next five weeks. He also reiterated that, like the Governor, he would like legislative leadership and the Governor to agree to joint targets by next Friday. Meeting this goal will go a long way towards an orderly and timely conclusion to this session.
Conferees Start Their Work
Conference committees for all major finance bills and the tax bill started their work this week. Below are a list of conferees for these conference committees (as well as the Real ID conference committee) and links to side by side comparisons of House and Senate positions, spreadsheets and other relevant committee documents:
HF 4 – Taxes
Senate: Chamberlain, Rest, Dahms, Miller, Senjem
House: Davids, Drazkowski, McDonald, Hertaus, Marquart
HF 861 – Transportation
Senate: Newman, Sparks, Jasinski, Osmek, Kiffmeyer
House: Torkelson, Runbeck, Petersburg, Koznick, Howe
HF 888 – Environment
Senate: Ingebrigtsen, Tomassoni, Ruud, Mathews, Westrom
House: Fabian, Heintzeman, Swedzinski, Newberger, Ecklund
HF 890 – E-12
Senate: Nelson, Wiger, Pratt, Weber, Eichorn
House: Loon, Erickson, Bennett, Kresha, Murphy (Mary)
SF 605 – State Government
Senate: Kiffmeyer, Laine, Anderson (Bruce), Hall, Koran
House: Anderson (Sarah), O’Driscoll, Dettmer, Fenton, Nash
SF 780 – Agriculture
Senate: Westrom, Eken, Weber, Lang, Goggin
House: Hamilton, Anderson (Paul), Lueck, Backer, Poppe
SF 800 – HHS
Senate: Benson, Lourey, Abeler, Housley, Utke
House: Dean M, Schomacker, Albright, Kiel, Schultz
SF 803 – Judiciary/Public Safety
Senate: Limmer, Latz, Relph, Anderson (Bruce), Johnson
House: Cornish, Johnson (Brian), Zerwas, Scott, Hilstrom
SF 1937 – Jobs, Commerce, Energy
Senate: Miller, Champion, Anderson (Paul), Dahms, Osmek
House: Garofalo, Newberger, Hoppe, O’Neill, Mahoney
SF 2214 – Higher Ed
Senate: Fischbach, Clausen, Anderson (Paul), Draheim, Jensen
House: Nornes, Christensen, Daniels, Whelan, Omar
HF 3 – Real ID
Senate: Pratt, Newman, Rest
House: Smith, Torkelson, Pelowski
As conference committees began discussing omnibus finance bills this week, discussion of bonding bill proposals started heating up. Speaker Daudt said that the House, which has not had a hearing on a comprehensive bonding bill to this point this session, will release their proposal in the next week or so. Governor Dayton has been calling on the Speaker to release a House proposal since January, when both he and the Senate released theirs. The Governor’s bonding bill spends $1.5 billion of general obligation bonds to fund Minnesota’s critical infrastructure needs. The Senate proposal, SF 210, authored by Senator David Senjem (R-Rochester), is basically the same bonding bill from last year without SWLRT, which was added as an amendment in the last few minutes of session. Their proposal would fund almost $1 billion in bonding requests and awaits action on the Senate floor. Bonding bills require three-fifths of each body to pass.
Upcoming Important Dates
Adjournment. The legislative session has a constitutional adjournment date of May 22 this year.