Most of the omnibus budget bills were wrangled over on the House and Senate floor this week as the Legislature continued to work on the state's biennial budget. Final votes on the budget bills were along party lines, highlighting the partisan debates on the various bills. Conference committees will begin to meet in the next several weeks as final negotiations begin to resolve the differences in the bills before they are sent to the Governor.
- Members of the Senate processed the majority of their omnibus budget bills this week. The tax bill is expected to be heard as early as Monday on the floor and the omnibus Transportation bill is also awaiting floor action. The House was equally busy during the week as they vetted, and passed, most of their omnibus bills as well. Two budget bills—Health and Human Services and State Government— remain to be heard in the House Ways and Means Committee and then on the full floor. The Jobs and Economic Development bill had to take a detour through the Tax committee this week and we anticipate it to be heard on the House floor in the next week.
- Conference committees are likely to begin negotiating this coming week to send to Governor Dayton final confereed budgets. The legislature's budget proposals could be signed by Governor Dayton or could be met with vetoes. Early in the week, the Governor sent a letter to legislative leaders expressing the desire for a complete, balanced budget proposal. Highlights from the letter include Governor Dayton's statement that he will not engage in budget negotiations until all bills pass the House and Senate. Concerned with the Legislature's use of preliminary fiscal notes in some legislative proposals, Governor Dayton said that Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) – the state's finance department - would be the final decision on expenditure and revenue estimates. In the three page letter the governor also said that negotiations would not begin until the costs have been verified and accurate fiscal notes are agreed upon. Thirdly, Governor Dayton said that policy in such proposals should not be included, unless it is language that he has agreed to. View the letter from Governor Dayton to the legislative leadership, here.
- As the Governor and Legislature try to reach common ground on how to address the state's $5 billion budget shortfall, and if all or most of the budget bills are vetoed, a second round of budget bills will dominate the final two months of session. Policy bills will be heard in committees over the next few weeks, even as work continues on filling the large budget gap. April 29 is the deadline for when policy bills must pass all related committees in either the House or the Senate.
- Rumors of new Vikings stadium proposal circulated late last week. Rep. Morrie Lanning (R-Moorehead) and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Fairmont) are said to be carrying the proposal, which many speculate has been delayed until after the budget deficit was addressed. Early discussions appear to have the state chip in between $250 and $300 million for the new stadium. Funding for such a large investment in a year dominated by budget deficit negotiations may be tough politically.