Capitol Watch, April 2009
IN THIS ISSUE:
The House and Senate have now completed action on nearly all of their major spending bills including passage over the weekend of their respective omnibus tax bills. The "shared sacrifice" theme of the Senate spending bills is reflected in an across-the-board 7 percent cut to all state and local funding accounts. That along with a $2.2 billion increase in taxes accounts for the Senate's plan to close the projected $4.6 billion deficit for fiscal years 2010-11.
Jobs Stimulus Bill Gains Ground
Senate File 2078, authored by Senator Jim Metzen (DFL-South St. Paul), was introduced on April 16. The bill is the product of a diverse group of architects, contractors, union members, professionals and public officials, who came together late in 2008 to work on a package that would help to address the issues facing the construction industry. The Construction Jobs Coalition, as the group is called, worked for several months on language that will stimulate jobs in the vertical construction market, one of the areas hit hardest by the economic downturn.
Health Care Update
After much anticipation, Representative Tom Huntley (DFL-Duluth) and Senator Linda Berglin (DFL-Minneapolis) released their respective Health and Human Services Omnibus Bills. The bills moved through the committee process at a fast pace and have already been heard on the House and Senate floors. On April 27, the House version, HF 1362, passed on a vote of 85-49, and the Senate version, SF 695, was approved on a vote of 40-23.
Bioscience and Renewable Energy Grants
Some exciting opportunities are becoming available at both the state and federal level for bioscience and renewable energy projects.
Tax Bills Face Likely Veto
This past week of the 2009 Minnesota Legislature reflected something of a marathon as both the House and Senate acted on major tax and spending bills. In the House, the floor session on Friday night ran well into Saturday morning, followed by a midday session on Saturday that ran into the evening. The highlight of the week was consideration of the omnibus tax bill for the respective chambers. While they share a common thread in that they each raises more than a billion dollars in new taxes, they are dramatically different in their approach.
Renewable Energy Programs in the Environment & Natural Resources Budget
This past week, the House and Senate Environment, Energy and Natural Resources budget bills for the next biennium were adopted by each chamber. House and Senate members now need to resolve their differences to produce a bill to be considered for final passage and delivery to Governor Tim Pawlenty. Although the budget is still under debate and may be subject to change, the bills cut spending by approximately 7 percent and impose several fees that were originally recommended by the governor. In a year of extreme budget pressure, House and Senate leadership have had to come up with creative ideas to fund this area which is a relatively small component of the state’s overall budget when compared to education or health, but which plays an important role in determining the direction of the state’s future.
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