Poppe: How will it end?

Published 12:53 pm Sunday, May 1, 2016

One priority of the legislature during the first year of the biennium is to pass a two-year state budget. The second year is designated for capital investment, referred to as bonding, which funds infrastructure projects statewide. In 2015, the newly elected House Majority was presented with an opportunity to build upon recent progress to strengthen our state’s economic security and improve the general well-being of its citizens. Given what was the state’s projected $1.9 billion surplus, the House Republicans should have been able to craft a fiscally sound state budget plan. Instead, last year’s session ended with no agreement on a tax bill, only a “lights on” transportation bill maintaining the status quo, and a special session to iron out differences from three vetoed bills to prevent a government shutdown.

Supplemental budget bills are developed in the second year when there is additional revenue available (a surplus). It has been well known since last year’s special session that the House Republicans would not agree to increase spending within any of the specific budget areas. However, they seem to recognize the value of investing in new initiatives. Unfortunately this creates a scenario which requires them to seek dollars within already established budgets, rather than use money from the $900 million surplus. This week additional spending bills were authorized in each of the eight budget divisions (other than transportation).

The “supplemental” spending bills have passed off the House floor and will be rolled into one omnibus bill. The House and Senate have very different bills. Legislative leaders will appoint Conference Committee members to address the bill differences. Before the Conference Committee can take action, the House Speaker must negotiate with the Senate Majority Leader to agree on spending/budget targets.

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Minnesotans have clearly and continuously stated they want the Legislature to present a comprehensive transportation bill to address our crumbling infrastructure. Farmers and small business owners are very concerned about their property taxes and want action. Millions of dollars in bonding requests come from every corner of the state and we need to support the movement of these projects. Bills to tackle transportation, tax relief, and bonding, also await the negotiation between House and Senate Leadership for spending targets.

Some argue that divided government restores balance to our democracy; however, the lack of progress over the last year and a half is a mirror image of the gridlock we see in Congress. With only three weeks remaining, time is short to prove the ability to prioritize problem solving over partisanship.

I invite you to share with me your thoughts on the state budget or any other issue of interest or concern. I can be reached at 651-296-4193 or 888-682-3180. You can also contact me at rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn.