This week, the legislature began to work through the differences in House and Senate finance omnibus bills in Conference Committee, while also beginning work on policy omnibus bills. The first deadline for policy bills will be Friday, April 29. With the Legislature on a break next week for Easter and Passover, the committees are working overtime to meet the deadline.
- Conference Committee work is underway for many omnibus finance bills including Health and Human Services, Taxes, Higher Education, State Government Finance, Education, and Transportation. The Agriculture Conference Committee Report passed both the House and Senate, along with the Green Acres Conference Committee Report. Both are now headed to the governor's desk for final approval.
- Earlier in the week, controversy arose between GOP leadership and Governor Dayton over a letter from the governor stating that the Republicans' budgets have not closed the entire deficit. The letter, signed by Minnesota Management & Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter and Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans, states that current House and Senate budget proposals are out of balance by $1.2 billion and $1.16 billion, respectively. Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers argued that not all the proposals are easily quantified because they've never been done before. To read the governor's letter, click here.
- Disagreements over balancing the budget continued when the governor's budget bill was heard in the House Taxes Committee this week. The committee ran out of time, with only three of the 42 testifiers finishing their testimony. The meeting highlighted the policy push-pull between Dayton and his proposed income tax increases and the Republicans' position that new taxes would not be part of the solution to the state's $5.1 billion deficit. Sponsored by Rep. Michael Paymar (DFL-St. Paul), HF1231 lays out the governor's new 10.95 percent tax rate on the state's highest income earners; a new state property tax on homes and seasonal recreation property valued at more than $1 million; increased income subject to corporate tax; and various other tax provisions.
- The Dayton administration announced this week its support for the use of data analytics to detect and prevent Medicaid fraud and improve performance in other areas. The Department of Administration issued a request for firms to provide quantitative tools such as data analytics in support of the administration's goals to save taxpayers' money and reduce waste. This advanced approach will be available to all state agencies. Through the state's cooperative purchasing venture, it will also be available to cities, counties, school districts, and the state's public higher education institutions.
- Last Friday, Governor Mark Dayton signed executive orders creating a comprehensive energy savings plan for the state. Executive Order 11-12 directs state agencies to identify and make cost-effective energy improvements in state facilities, and sets a goal of a 20-percent reduction in state energy consumption. Executive Order 11-13 directs state agencies to implement new practices and policies that save money and reduce the environmental impact of state government operations. The third executive order, 11-14, renames the state's Office of Energy Security, housed within the Department of Commerce, as the Division of Energy Resources.