April 28, 2017

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: Budget Negotiations Continue, Conference Committees Focus on Policy

With three weeks left in the legislative session, most of the week was spent on often contentious budget negotiations between the Governor and legislative leadership. Last month, Governor Dayton sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R, Nisswa) and House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R, Crown) requesting joint conference committee targets to be agreed to between the Governor and legislative leaders no later than today, April 28, 2017. On Wednesday, Governor Dayton stated that legislators must work out the differences between their versions of the budget bills in conference committee before his office will begin final negotiations and agree to joint targets.

Republican leaders called out the Governor for this last minute change of position, referencing the letter he sent them in March. Speaker Daudt said the Governor’s refusal to engage in the process until after the House and Senate work out their differences is irresponsible given the looming end of session date, May 22.

Governor Dayton has responded that his letter from March did not express his views clearly, and since then has clarified his true position multiple times. The Governor also defended himself against the claim that he and his administration are failing to be engaged in the budget process. Last week, his administration sent out 55 letters outlining concerns within each omnibus budget bill.

Progress was made late in the week and today Speaker Daudt and Majority Leader Gazelka held a press conference to release joint House-Senate budget targets. They propose increases in education, health and human services, higher education, public safety, agriculture, taxes and transportation. They propose decreases for state government, jobs, environment, reinsurance and bonding. Overall, they propose tax relief of $1.15 billion and $372 million in new funds for transportation.

The new targets proposed by the House and Senate include:

Committee

FY18-19
House and Senate

$ Change from FY16-17

Education

$18.47 billion

$1.14 billion

Health and Human Services

$13.82 billion

$2.05 billion

Higher Education

$3.19 billion

$113 million

Public Safety

$2.25 billion

$87 million

Taxes and Aid

$3.45 billion

$114 million

Agriculture

$118 million

$1 million

State Government, Jobs, Environment, Reinsurance, Cancellations, Bonding, Misc.

$3.41 billion

($515 million)

Majority Leader Gazelka said his hope is that they will have an agreement on broad budget targets with Governor Dayton by next Thursday, May 4.

Conference Committees Address Policy Issues While Awaiting Budget Targets

House and Senate conference committees spent most of the week meeting to adopt provisions contained in both bill versions with not cost and same or similar language. They also addressed and attempted to reconcile policy differences as they waited for joint budget targets. With targets established, conference committees will move quickly to finish their work by early next week.

Bonding Bill Update

Governor Dayton continues to call on the House to release their bonding bill. Today Speaker Daudt indicated that the House bonding proposal will be introduced early next week. The bill the House will be proposing will be a smaller infrastructure bill leaving room for broader debate next year. Earlier this session the House established a bonding target of $800 million for this session.

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