Speculation continues at the Capitol regarding the official adjournment date for the 2014 legislative session. In the spirit of this "Unsession," many legislators are hoping for an early adjournment. House members and the Governor are eager to wrap up this session so they can turn their attention to the campaign trail.
The legislature must adjourn for the biennium by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 19. However, no bills may be passed on the day of adjournment, meaning that the last possible day for legislative activity is May 18. Prior to adjournment, two major pieces of legislation need to be passed: the supplemental budget bill and the bonding bill. Here are the dates on convening and adjournment for even-year sessions over the last decade:
- Convened on February 2
- Adjourned on May 15
- Constitutional date of adjournment of May 24
- Convened on March 1
- Adjourned on May 21
- Constitutional adjournment date of May 22
- Convened on February 12
- Adjourned on May 18
- Constitutional adjournment day of May 19
- Convened on February 4
- Adjourned on May 16
- Constitutional adjournment date of May 24
- Convened on January 24
- Adjourned on May 10
- Constitutional adjournment date on May 21
- Convened on February 25
- Constitutional adjournment date on May 19
Minnesota Management and Budget's February Economic Forecast showed a budget surplus of $1.2 billion. After nine hours of debate, the House passed HF 3172, authored by Representative Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal), a $322 million supplemental budget bill on a party-line vote of 70-59. The package consisted of increased funding for priorities passed by each finance committee for fiscal year 2015. In the supplemental general fund spending, jobs and economic development received $37.4 million, including $25 million for a broadband development grant program; higher education received an increase of $17 million to cover employee compensation; health and human services received $91 million, including funding for a 5 percent rate increase to personal care providers; transportation received a boost of $49 million with $25 million allocated to fill potholes in state roads; public safety spent $49 million for increased staffing; environment received $15 million for an array of programs; and education finance increased the general education fund formula by $54 million.
After more than five hours of debate and with a party-line vote of 37-27, the Senate passed its supplemental budget omnibus bill. The Senate is using HF 3172 as the vehicle for the supplemental budget. The Senate version includes $25.5 million for higher education with $17 million for faculty compensation; $1.8 million for state departments and veterans affairs programs; $34.8 million for judiciary and public safety; $9.2 million for transportation; $41.3 million for E-12 education, including addition funding for ELL programs and early learning scholarships; $95.7 million for health and human services; and $8.7 million for jobs, economic development, housing and commerce. In total, the Senate bill appropriates $210 million.
Part of this year's surplus was used in the first omnibus tax bill (HF 1777) signed into law in late March. The bill provided $514 million in tax relief, primarily used to conform state income tax law with the federal code and repeal business to business sales taxes enacted in 2013. The House and Senate leadership agreed to set aside additional budget reserves but have not yet worked out the precise amount.
In additional to the supplemental budget, the legislature will come back from recess to pass a bonding proposal to fund a variety of public infrastructure needs. The even year of the biennium has traditionally been known as the "bonding year." However, over the past three decades the state has passed bonding proposals in nearly every year.
The bonding bill will focus on higher education projects for the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, asset preservation dollars for existing infrastructure, restoring the State Capitol, and many local government projects across the state. Many legislators look to the bonding bill as a way to bring home funding for an important local project. Some see the spending as excessive and motivated by electoral concerns rather than the interests of the state. Passing a bonding bill requires a supermajority of 60 percent support in both the House and the Senate. Because of this, it requires cooperation between the majority and minority parties. In the House, passage requires 81 of 134 members (requiring eight Republicans to support the bill, along with all 73 DFL Representatives). A 60 percent supermajority in the Senate is 41 of 67 votes (two Republicans plus all 39 DFL Senators).
This will be the most fluid piece of legislation discussed when lawmakers return later in April. The chair of the Capital Investment Committee, Rep. Alice Hausman (D- St. Paul), already unveiled HF 2490, a $850 million bonding bill and a separate bill using $125 million of revenue from the budget surplus. The Senate Capital Investment chair, Senator LeRoy Stumpf (D-Plummer), announced he would not release the Senate proposal until after the recess. Because of the supermajorities required to pass the bonding bill, this will likely be the last bill sent to Governor Dayton prior to the legislative adjournment.