Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No global agreement

The 2009 legislative session came to an end at midnight last night with no global agreement. Legislative leaders and the governor were not able to resolve their differences, so the governor has said he will unallot the gap remaining after the line-item vetoes in the spending bills. It is anticipated that the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system will receive an unallotment of approximately $70 million in 2011, the second year of the biennium. An unallotment is considered one-time.

With minutes to spare, the House and Senate did pass a $2.7 billion tax bill that would resolve the state's deficit through a $1 billion tax increase and a one-time shift. The bill passed the House 82-47, and minutes later, the Senate approved the bill by a vote of 35-1. The bill will certainly be vetoed by the governor.

Also in the final hours last night, HF 2251 was passed that revises the tuition cap language for the system given the anticipated cut to the system in 2011. Instead of capping tuition at 5 percent each year and using federal stimulus funds to buy it down to 3 percent each year, the language now reads that tuition is capped at 5 percent each year, but federal stimulus funds are to only be used to buy tuition down to 3 percent in FY 2010. Legislation no longer requires a federal stimulus buy-down in FY 2011.

A pension conference committee met yesterday to work through the differences between the House and Senate. The pension bill originally contained an article that would have increased teachers’ pension contributions to address deficiencies in several teachers’ pension funds. The article was removed over concerns that Gov. Tim Pawlenty opposed it and might veto the bill if it were included. The conference committee report did pass last night by the House and Senate and is headed to the governor. The bill includes a provision that permits the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system to establish an early separation incentive program for its employees.

DFL legislative leaders will be traveling throughout the state today to discuss the 2009 legislative session. Stops will include St. Paul, Duluth, Bemidji, Moorhead, St. Cloud, Mankato, and Rochester.

Lawmakers will return to St. Paul for the 2010 legislative session at noon February 4, 2010.

Please watch for the 2009 Mandates and Curiosities report that summarizes all legislation related to higher education that passed this session. The report will be available here at the end of June.

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