Thursday, March 27, 2008

Higher Education omnibus crafted

The House higher education omnibus bill advanced another hurdle Wednesday in the House Education Finance and Economic Competitiveness Finance Division. Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, presented the bill. It was approved and referred to the House Finance committee.

Please find a comparison of the House and Senate omnibus bills here. The Senate has two separate bills traveling, a policy and finance bill. The spreadsheet highlights the bill where the corresponding provision is found. The House has one omnibus bill that includes both finance and policy provisions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Stalemate over size of bonding bill

Lawmakers originally had hoped that a bonding bill would be on its way to the governor’s desk before the Legislature breaks for spring recess. That spring recess began today with no sign of an agreement. The House and Senate have been debating over the size of the bonding bill, which has put off the start of conference committee meetings. Both bodies agreed to first versions of the bill, but the question now remains: What should be the size of the bill?

After the February forecast showed a $935 million deficit, Gov. Tim Palwenty asked for the bill size to be reduced to $825 million, which would keep principal and interest payments to no more than 3 percent of the state’s general fund. The governor is now calling on House and Senate leaders to shrink the size of the bill or has said he will pull out the veto pen.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bonding revamped

Thursday morning, the Senate Finance Committee approved a second package of bonding projects and advanced the proposal to the full Senate.

At the request of Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, the Senate bonding chariman, the committee adopted an amendment to SF2538, containing a $925 million bonding package. (This brings the original total down from $965 million). Langseth said the governor has indicated he wants a package of about $825 million. Putting a $925 million proposal out is intended to establish a Senate position on a slightly smaller bill for conference committee purposes, Langseth said. Changes to the proposal for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities do not include any cuts, there is however additional funding of $3.5 million for Ridgewater College, and $2.4 million for Hennepin Technical College (these projects were not included in the Senate's original bill). For this proposal, this puts the system total at $277 million. According to The Bemidji Pioneer yesterday, both Rep. Alice Hausman, the House Capital Investment Chair and Langseth neither knew the next step in finishing a bonding bill. “If this goes to the floor, it is to make a statement to the position we are in,” Langseth said. “It is a long, long way from passing.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

High Tech support boosts bonding proposal

The Minnesota High Tech Association and Lifetime Allies have lent support to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities bonding projects that have emphasis on science, math, or technology. Please view their letter here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Bonding speeds ahead-conferees named

It was an important week at the Capitol as bonding bills were passed both in the House and Senate. Under the legislation, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities received funding to make important improvements on campuses. The House bill proposed $281 million to the system whereas the Senate legislation provided $271 million. For a complete list of the projects that were funded, please view this document.

With both bills passed, conferees were named on Thursday:

Senate Conferees:
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon (Chair)
Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm
Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul
Sen. Linda Scheid, DFL-Brooklyn Park
Sen. Paul Koering, R-Fort Ripley

House Conferees:
Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul (Chair)
Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis
Rep. Loren Solberg, DFL- Grand Rapids
Rep. Bev Scalze, DFL- Little Canada
Rep. Kathy Tingelstad, R-Andover

Members of this committee will iron out the differences between the House and Senate bill. Once the conferees put together a bill, the legislation goes back to the House and Senate for an up or down vote. No amendments are taken.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Bonding bill pushes ahead

Bonding is a top priority at the Capitol right now. The Senate Capital Investment
Committee released its bonding bill Tuesday evening. The Minnesota State Colleges and
Universities received $271 million of projects. This bill next travels to the Senate Finance Committee Monday morning and is expected to be voted on by the full Senate early next week.

The House bill is moving a bit slower, but we will see the pace pick up early next week. House Higher Education and Workforce Development Policy and Finance Chair Tom Rukavina presented the higher education bonding recommendations to the Capital Investment Committee on Monday. Rukavina and the committee recommended the full Minnesota State Colleges and Universities bonding request. The bill will be presented Monday morning in the House Capital Investment committee and then will travel to the Finance Committee Tuesday. Stay tuned as we head into another busy week of bonding.

Trustee McElroy confirmed

Senators took up the confirmation of Dan McElroy, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities on Thursday. He was approved by a vote of 59-3.

Chair of the Higher Education Committee, Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL St. Paul, encouraged senators to support McElroy’s confirmation. She said McElroy adds to the board in a positive manner. Sen. Claire Robling, RJordan, said McElroy’s dual role as the Department of Employment and Economic Development commissioner and as a trustee is a perfect fit and that the state needs someone who understands both economic development and training workers.