Thursday, May 7, 2009

Action continues at the Capitol

Yesterday at the Capitol
The capital investment conference committee met yesterday and discussed a number of topics, including flood mitigation, commuter and passenger rail projects and transit projects. The House made two offers, both of which included the five vetoed projects from 2008 and $40 million in HEAPR for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. The Senate now has the gavel and another conference committee meeting is anticipated today.

The higher education conference committee also met yesterday and the Senate presented a proposal. No action was taken and conferees did not meet the rest of the day. The House has the gavel today and has scheduled a conference committee for 8:30 a.m.

Over in the E-12 education conference committee, conferees continue to have extended discussions on the policy issues where the two bills are far apart, but without budget targets, finance provisions have not been discussed in any depth. Co-chair Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, said there is not yet a target, nor does she expect one by the Thursday conference committee deadline, because "the House has not agreed with the Senate to split the difference" between the two bills. That difference is about $500 million for the biennium.

Today is the fifth and final committee deadline when conference committees are supposed to have conference committee reports to the floor. Capitol watchers wonder if that goal will be met.

While conference committees are meeting, the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy meets daily as legislative leaders and the governor's office work toward reaching agreement on the $6.4 billion budget deficit.

The Commission has become the forum for transparency regarding end-of-session negotiations.

Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said that federal stabilization money is complicating the mix in setting spending targets, especially in the areas of health and human services, K-12 education and higher education.

Kelliher said there is still time to get the work done, but cited urgency. "We want to have time so people know the bills, read the House Research summary, do this as publicly as possible and give people as much time as possible," she said.

At the Capitol:
Legislative schedules are available for the House and Senate.

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