May 05, 2017

Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update: Legislators and Governor Dayton Work Toward Budget Agreement

In response to Governor Mark Dayton’s demand that the Legislature provide a complete budget for him to analyze before starting negotiations, the House and Senate agreed to joint legislative targets and conference committees met and finalized conference reports on Monday and Tuesday. While conference committees completed reports, they were not passed out to the House and Senate floors for votes, leaving flexibility to incorporate policy and budget changes Governor Dayton may require during budget negotiations.

With conference committee reports adopted mid-week, legislative leaders began negotiating with Governor Dayton on a global budget agreement. A two-track negotiation continued through the remainder of the week, with negotiators attempting to finalize budget bills with relatively minor policy and budget differences while continuing to work towards a global budget agreement. On Thursday and Friday, negotiators focused on the Higher Education and Agriculture omnibus finance bills, as there are a limited number of policy provisions in these bills, and the Governor and Legislature are $198 million apart and $10 million apart, respectively.

Legislative leaders have indicated that if they cannot reach a global budget agreement by late next week, they will start moving conference committee reports to the House and Senate floor for votes and presentment to the Governor. Without an agreement, those bills will likely be vetoed.

Whether Governor Dayton and the Legislature can adjourn by May 22, the constitutionally mandated adjournment date, depends on if a global budget agreement can be reached in the coming two weeks. Significant differences remain, especially in the areas of taxes, transportation, and health and human services. In addition, the Governor has identified over 600 policy provisions — with over 90 in the Environment omnibus finance bill alone — and has raised concerns that it will not be possible to finish by May 22 unless policy provisions are removed.

Bonding Update

On Wednesday, the House Capital Investment Committee heard HF 892, the House’s bonding proposal. The bill, which bonds for significantly less than what was authorized in the bill vetoed by Governor Dayton last year, spends $600 million, primarily on infrastructure. Committee Chair Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, the author of the bill, testified that HF 892 is a starting point and will only grow from its current size. He also reminded members that this is not a typical bonding year and that next year the bonding process will proceed as normal with site visits during the interim and hearings on specific proposals.

Opponents testified that most priorities of state agencies and the Governor were not included, and that this bill is too small, especially since there hasn’t been a bonding bill for the last two years. Concerns were also raised about last year’s process with the bill passing out of committee on the last night and rushed to a floor vote.

HF 892 was passed as amended and was referred to Ways and Means.

Upcoming Important Dates

  • Adjournment. The legislative session has a constitutional adjournment date of May 22 this year.

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