Friday, May 20, 2011

Budget talks continue; Negotiations in works?

With only four days remaining, there is still no global budget agreement; however, don't count them out yet. Four days is a long time in the legislative world. Both bodies have passed all 10 budget bills now and have sent them to Gov. Dayton. The Senate took up the higher education conference report on the floor yesterday evening and passed it by a vote of 35-31. The bill now heads to the governor's desk with the others.

Gov. Dayton met with the House and Senate Republican caucuses yesterday afternoon and said he understands that they believe very strongly in their perspective. He also said he believes strongly in his, but is hopeful they can find a way to resolve this. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said she appreciates the governor's time, and said she thinks it was a very constructive meeting. Koch said the most striking element of the meeting was when many members shared their stories about what the budget means to them personally. Koch said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, shared what's been happening in her family, and told the governor the choice becomes clear for government to live within their means when families have to live within their means. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said they had a great discussion with the governor, and said some Republican members shared their perspectives as small business owners. Zellers said they agreed that the Legislature should adjourn on time with a balanced budget.

On the Senate floor yesterday, members adopted a resolution that sets the start date for the 2012 session for Jan. 24, 2012 at noon.

There have not been many bill introductions this week, but yesterday Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, introduced SF 1447, and Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, introduced the companion bill, HF 1734. This bill specifies a higher education attainment goal that by 2020 at least 75 percent of state residents at age 25 will have attained a postsecondary degree or certificate. Language in the bill requires the Office of Higher Education and the Governor's Workforce Development Council to develop recommendations to achieve that goal. The bill can be found here.

Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, introduced HF 1736, a bill that establishes a Minnesota HOPE awards to provide financial aid to income-eligible students who meet academic achievement goals. The bill can be found here.

The House goes into session today at 9:00 a.m. and the Senate goes in at 10:00 a.m. Watch for continued updates in the coming days.

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