A number of events scheduled throughout the week kept the Capitol halls and hearing rooms crowded with legislators, lobbyists, and citizens. Governor Mark Dayton released his supplemental budget, the Conference Committee for the health insurance exchange legislation held multiple hearings, and Friday marked the first committee deadline for policy bills. The schedule next week will be similar, as committees work throughout the week to meet the second deadline.
Governor Dayton's Supplemental Budget
In response to the February forecast that reduced the projected deficit from $1.1 billion to $627 million, Governor Dayton on Thursday released his supplemental budget, which included several revisions to his earlier budget proposal. The revised budget eliminated his sales tax proposals and property tax rebates for every homeowner but retained increases in the income tax on the wealthy and the tobacco tax. He indicated that he changed his mind on overhauling sales taxes because he lacked support from both the business community and members of the DFL legislature. Without the sales tax proposals, the total new revenue proposal in Dayton's budget went from $3.6 billion to $1.8 billion. The $1.8 billion in new revenue would come from anew fourth tier on income taxes, estimated to generate $1.1 billion, plus $370 million from the tobacco tax and $323 million from the elimination of a corporate deduction for Minnesota companies operating overseas. The increase in revenue would wipe out the current deficit and pay for the Governor's plan to make investments in education and economic development programs.
Health Insurance Exchange
The Conference Committee for HF5, sponsored by Rep. Atkins (DFL-Inver Grove Heights) and Sen. Lourey (DFL-Kerrick), rolled up their sleeves this week to finalize the legislation that creates the Minnesota Insurance Marketplace. The Conference Committee worked through three days, discussing and debating the language best suited for the state-based exchange before concluding on Wednesday evening with a piece of legislation that members believed suited the interests of the state.
On Thursday evening the House adopted the Conference Committee report for HF5 and ultimately passed the bill on a near-party line vote of 72-61. The Senate will have its final vote on the legislation next week.
Silica Sand Mining Regulation
On Wednesday, the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee heard HF906, sponsored by Rep. Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul). This bill requires the development of criteria for model standards relating to mining, processing, and transporting of silica sand. The bill also establishes a silica sand technical assistance team comprised of representatives from a variety of state agencies, MnSCU, and the University of Minnesota. The bill passed through the Committee and will be heard in the Government Operations Committee on Friday.