You can tell it's spring in Minnesota. The first crocuses sprout, robins chirp contentedly, and Minnesota legislators work around-the-clock in Saint Paul to meet their self-imposed deadlines.
Over the past two weeks, legislative committees encountered two significant deadlines. Thursday, April 16, marked the deadline for finance divisions in each body to pass their budget bills, and April 22 was the last day for finance and tax committees to act favorably on their bills.
This week, conference committees will begin to hammer out the differences between House and Senate bills. The Senate is holding to its plan to cut general fund spending by 7% across each policy area, while the House prioritizes its cuts within each issue area—with health and human services shouldering the largest share of the reductions and K-12 education being held harmless.
With only a little more than a week to go, the legislature will continue meeting from dawn to dusk to finish its work and present its omnibus budget and tax bills to Gov. Pawlenty by May 7. There is still a lot of work to be done before the legislature's scheduled adjournment on Monday, May 18. The Governor continues to voice his opposition to any new taxes, while the Senate and House depend on tax increases to help mitigate cuts and balance their budgets. And since no side seems willing to give, whispers are already being heard in the halls about possible special sessions and a government shutdown, reminiscent of the state government shutdown of 2005.
This week promises to be another demanding one, full of committee meetings and floor sessions lasting well into the night. The health and human services budget bills are scheduled to be voted on today in both the House and the Senate. And since health and human services makes up the largest percent of the budget, both bodies are preparing for what could be a contentious and all-day debate. The rest of the week will be eventful as committees hear the last remaining bills and as conference committees get underway.
Thursday, May 7: Fifth Deadline - Conference committees on omnibus appropriation and tax bills to report bills to the floor
May 18: Last Day of Session