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Legislative Update: March 7, 2017

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 6, 2017

February Budget Forecast

For the eighth consecutive time over the past four years, Minnesota has a projected budget surplus. Estimates in November 2016 had the state budget surplus at $1.4 billion over the next two years, but last week the office of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) announced the surplus has risen to $1.65 billion. MMB commissioner Myron Frans stated that the increased revenue is due to higher-than-expected returns on sales tax, and a shrinking unemployment rate.

View the MMB’s budget forecast presentation

While this is positive fiscal news for the state, both legislators and Gov. Mark Dayton expressed caution when asked about what they intend to do with the additional funds. Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) both stated they will prioritize tax relief, K-12 education, and roads and bridges in their budgets. Gov. Dayton released a budget proposal in January, so he will take steps to revise that proposal and release a supplemental version in the coming days.

Next steps in the legislative process

In the upcoming weeks, Gov. Dayton will provide an updated 2017-2018 budget proposal utilizing the new financial information. House and Senate Republicans will release their budget targets for each of their respective finance committees, which will determine how much of the state budget each area receives in the final budget. The budget must be in place by July to avoid a state government shutdown.

Senate Jobs Committee Hears Bills on Broadband Grant Appropriations

Last week the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee heard testimony on two bills that would both appropriate funds to the Border-to-Border Broadband grant program.  SF 980 authored by Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) appropriates $35 million in fiscal year 2018 from the general fund for the grant program. The bill also specifies that no more than $5 million may be for grants to underserved areas. The bill also specifies that grants for projects in underserved areas may fund no more than 50 percent of a project cost. Requires grants for projects in un-served areas to have a 25 percent match. Current law allows only up to 50 percent of the project cost for all projects. Lowers the maximum grant allowed from $5 million to $3 million.  SF 980 does not yet have a companion in the House.

SF 234 authored by Sen. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth) appropriates $100 million in fiscal year 2018 from the general fund for the grant program. Simonson’s bill does not address any policy changes regarding underserved or un-served areas. In the House, HF 841 is the companion.

Support on both bills came from a number of groups and people ranging from trade associations to local government. Both bills were held over and will potentially become part of a larger omnibus bill once the committee receives its budget target.

Committee Deadlines in March

As session marches on, more work will be done on the House and Senate floors and less work will be done in the committee rooms. At this point there have been 1,735 bills introduced in the Senate and 2,065 bills in the House. The House and Senate will be moving at break-neck speed in the month of March to pass bills through the committee process. Keep up-to-date on the work being done at the capitol on the combined legislative calendar.

The first committee deadline is only four days away, on Friday, March 10. The second deadline will be on Friday, March 17, with the final deadline coming on Friday, March 31. For a policy bill to become law it must pass out of at least one of the chambers by March 10, and then subsequently be passed by the other chamber by March 17. Any bill that has a financial cost may be passed at any point up to the final deadline on March 31.

The House Public Information office has developed a brief video detailing the committee deadline process.

Legislative Tracker

To date there have been four bills have been passed by both chambers and signed into law. Gov. Dayton has a legislative tracker that shows all bills signed into law. So far, there has been a bill creating a Rural Finance Authority, health insurance premium relief, a property tax provision change and a federal tax conformity measure. The bill authorizing Sunday liquor sales is now on deck to be the fifth bill signed into law.

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