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April 13, 2018

Minnesota Legislative Update: Opioid Crisis Top of Mind as Third Committee Deadline Nears

The Minnesota Legislature, returning from Easter/Passover break, turned its attention to assembling omnibus supplemental budgets. With the third committee deadline approaching, the Legislature has one week to assemble these budget bills. Tax bills are not subject to this deadline and may be passed at any point until the Legislature adjourns. With roughly five weeks until the adjournment, both the House and Senate are likely to spend more time debating individual bills during floor sessions while focusing on passing tax conformity and a bonding bill.

Governor Dayton Highlights Parameters for Session’s Final Weeks

On April 9, 2018, Governor Mark Dayton sent a letter to House and Senate Leadership highlighting his “parameters” for the rest of the session. Governor Dayton highlighted the protection of the elderly and vulnerable adults from abuse, school safety, the opioid crisis and a pension bill as areas where compromise is within reach. He would like to see bills addressing these issues passed by the end of April. While the Legislature is crafting the supplemental budget bills and federal tax conformity bill, Governor Dayton emphasized that the long-term fiscal stability of the state remains his highest priority — and he will not support any bill that threatens it. Finally, Governor Dayton insisted that all budget bills and policy bills travel separately, and he will not sign any budget bill with controversial policy issues attached.

House Releases Budget Targets

On Thursday, the House released their budget targets. Roughly two-thirds of the $329 million surplus is dedicated to tax cuts/conformity and roads and bridges. The House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Rep. Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud), reviewed and adopted the budget resolution regarding budget adjustments as compared to currently scheduled spending. Proponents of the resolution stated that these targets represent investments in transportation, tax conformity, school safety and broadband. Opponents contested that more money should go towards education funding, a larger bonding bill and higher education. The Senate is likely to present separate targets and will be part of final negotiations with Governor Dayton. Below is a breakdown of the House’s budget resolution:

  • Taxes: $107M
  • Transportation: $101M
  • K-12 Education: $30M
  • Health and Human Services: $10M
  • Jobs and Energy: $15M
  • Agriculture: $250,000
  • Capital Investment: $825M
  • Environment: $750,000
  • Higher Education: $5M
  • Public Safety: $7M
  • State Gov’t Finance: ($7M)
  • Other: $50M (opioid crisis and elder abuse)

This budget resolution allows for an $825 million capital investment bill, far less than the $1.5 billion proposal offered by Governor Mark Dayton. The budget resolution was passed on a bipartisan vote.

Opioid Crisis

The opioid epidemic has been a much-debated issue this session. The rapid rise in opioid fatalities urged Governor Dayton to support a penny-a-pill tax charged to pharmaceutical companies to be used for prevention, emergency response, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement. The proposal builds on legislation passed in 2017 that allowed police officers to carry an opioid antidote for overdoses. SF730, authored by Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center), includes a penny-a-pill tax and is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. The companion bill, HF1440 authored by Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar), does not include the tax but rather uses general fund dollars and is awaiting a hearing in House HHS Finance Committee.

Important Dates

  • April 20, 2018 – Third committee deadline
  • May 21, 2018 – Last day of session

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