Minnesota Weekly Legislative Update
[co-authors: Robert Harter and Stephanie Pinkalla]
Thursday, April 21 was the third bill deadline at the Legislature, by which date committees must act favorably upon all major appropriation and finance bills. During the week, committees in both the House and Senate met regarding their supplemental budget bills. The supplemental budget will spend surplus dollars as projected by the Office of Management and Budget. The Senate proposes to use $789 million of the $900 million projected surplus, the majority of which will be allocated for additional spending with $300 million tabbed for tax cuts. The House proposal covers all $900 million, with the intention to split the surplus funds between tax cuts and a transportation spending plan. In many areas, the House and Senate budget proposals reveal differing priorities. Now that formal deadlines have been met, budget negotiations will dominate the next month as Governor Mark Dayton and legislators work toward their May 23 constitutional adjournment date.
The Senate E-12 education bill spends $48.2 million, and its higher education bill spends an additional $47.7 million. Nearly $27 million of the Senate E-12 dollars go toward establishing the MinneK program, a voluntary preschool program for four-year-olds that will be available in certain schools throughout the state. The Senate budget also spends to address the teacher shortage and support increased school counselors. Higher education spending in the Senate includes $14 million for a competitive grant program to increase retention and completion, $1.7 million to the State Grant Program, and funds to diversify the teacher workforce. The House K-12 education and higher education bills both refrain from spending any surplus dollars, although the House K-12 bill shifts $55 million from existing allocations to support grants to attract diverse teachers, address the teacher shortage, fund school technology and broadband, and increase funds to the Parent Aware child care rating system.
Jobs and Economic Development
Collectively, between jobs, economic development, agriculture and environment, the Senate spends $12.7 million, while the House spends $4.5 million. The Senate plan would fund Paid Family Leave at nearly $7 million, creating a new insurance program within the state to support paid time off for individuals seeking to care for an ill family member or due to pregnancy. Both employers and employees would pay into the insurance fund, with the proposed $7 million allocation going to start-up and administrative costs. The House spends $1.4 million in grants to workforce development programs and includes some funds for business and community grants. The House does not have any provisions to match the Senate Paid Family Leave program. Separate from this general allocation, the Senate spends $85 million for broadband expansion across the state, while the House spends $40 million.
Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources
With regard to agriculture, the House redirects $3.1 million from the avian influenza response account to the General Fund. The Senate’s proposal includes $300,000 for the Pollinator Investment Grants program, dollars for various water quality and clean water efforts, and $1 million in funds for a pilot tractor rollover prevention grant program. The tractor rollover prevention program is included under a $250,000 allocation for farm safety in the House bill. The Senate and House budgets also include over $3 million in funds to the Department of Natural Resources for anticipated legal costs related to the NorthMet mining project.
The Senate plans to spend $31.5 million in its supplemental transportation bill to fund some projects throughout the state, in addition to new funding contained in their Transportation Bill adopted in 2015. The House Transportation Bill from 2015 spends General Fund money for roads and bridges. The House will announce its 2016 General Fund spending on Transportation soon.
Judiciary and Public Safety
The Senate bill spends $45 million while the House bill actually removes $1 million in funding from this area. The Senate plan includes $29 million for improving correctional institutions by increasing security staffing and adding more beds for mental institutions. To deal with the prison bed shortage, the GOP members of the House adopted an amendment in the supplemental budget process that would add another private prison facility.
Health and Human Services
Within Health and Human Services, the Senate is slated to spend $43.3 million in FY16-17. The Senate bill addresses budgetary shortfalls, support for programs they didn’t fund last year and additional long-term support for programs. While the House has no additional spending, they authorize people with mental illnesses to get help with loans and mortgages, and exempt dentists outside the seven-county metro area from the state health care program.
In response to racial and economic disparities, a Senate Finance subcommittee was established to focus on racial and economic equity. This subcommittee spends $91 million in over 30 direct and competitive grants to programs across the state, focused on economically depressed or racially concentrated communities. Programs include support grants to small businesses and communities, workforce development and training, and financial literacy training. The House does not have a comparable budget bill or provision.
Upcoming Legislative Notes
Next week, the Senate and House will give final approval to the Supplemental Budget bills. The Capital Investment Committees will be working on the Bonding Bill. By early May, the stage will be set for Conference Committees to begin work on resolving the differences on major bills.