Tuesday, May 10, 2011

State government discusses salary freeze; House passes education policy bill; Schedules posted

Yesterday at the Capitol

In the state government conference committee yesterday morning, there was much discussion regarding the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system's state employees. Russ Stanton with the Inter Faculty Organization, testified that the IFO supports the House language that exempts the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system faculty and administrators from the salary freeze. Stanton said the system has already taken reductions, and the current higher education bill includes more cuts. He said it's no surprise the IFO doesn't like salary freezes; they prevent things like early retirements, competitiveness and recruiting.

Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said he appreciates the interest in the competitiveness for the employees in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, but would hope the rest of state government would be exempt from a salary freeze as well. Schowlater said he understands the budget situation but a salary freeze puts the state at a competitive disadvantage and will not get Minnesota where leaders are looking to go as a state. Schowalter said, "We need to develop a trained and skillful workforce," and asked conferees to look at the policy from a workforce point of view as well. He said the language doesn't provide for any flexibility.

Richard Kolodziejski with MAPE said the state government bill takes away the right for the union to collectively bargain. He said a salary reduction is unnecessary, because the Legislature can change things that have been collectively bargained through the current process. "We believe you can take action through measures already in place rather than infringe on the union's rights through this legislation," Kolodziejski said.

Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, said the House bill excludes the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in three different provisions, and asked his fellow conferees to consider the House language in all the provisions that exclude the system. Benson said the system has already made reductions which have had an impact. Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, echoed Benson's comments, and added that the system has done good work already in the area of cuts and restructuring.

When Senate conferees asked why the House exempted Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system administrators and faculty, Rep. Benson responded that he sits on the higher education committee and heard the commitment the system has on trimming the budget. He said the system has done a good job of managing costs and has already demonstrated the ability to look at the efficiencies needed to bring costs down. Chair Lanning said the Legislature should treat the system the same way they treat the University of Minnesota. In reinforcing the House position regarding the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, Rep. Downey said the Office of the Chancellor has undergone a lot of scrutiny already in regards to the system's back office functions. Downey said the Office of the Legislative Auditor recommended a couple "tweaks" last year, but overall the system functions well.

Conferees did amend the House language to provide for both sides of the bill that the salary freeze provision supercedes any other law that otherwise might be construed to offer an increase prohibited by the salary freeze section. Existing contracts cannot remain in effect after July 1, 2011.

Another provision adopted was the provision that requires the state, including the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, to use zero-based budgeting. The process requires detailed budgets presented to the Legislature to include three alternative funding levels or alternative ways of performing each activity, a summary of priorities that would be accomplished within each level compared to a zero budget, and the additional increments of value that would be added by higher funding levels.

The committee recessed until later in the evening, when they came back and took action on other language items with substantive differences. Conferees adopted language that excludes the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities faculty and administrators from the salary freeze.

Chair Lanning said at the morning's conference committee that he appreciated the discussion rather than the heated discussion conferees and the Dayton administration had on Friday. He said he hopes to get the language ironed out while the governor and legislative leaders negotiate a target. The state government conference committee is scheduled to meet again today at 5:00 p.m. and take up the non-comparable provisions, which is attached for your reference.

Also yesterday, the full House took up the K-12 education policy bill and passed it by a vote of 74-55. One of the provisions in the bill is a requirement for data in the "Getting Prepared" report that the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities prepares. The data would include information regarding whether students who enroll in college are prepared and whether they have special education backgrounds. Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, tried unsuccessfully to send the bill to the Higher Education Policy and Finance committee because Morrow said higher education should be able to weigh in on spending money in a time of cuts to higher education. Also the provision that would require teacher candidates to pass a basic skills exam in reading, writing and math before being licensed is included in this bill. Recall this provision passed as a separate bill off the House floor last week. The Senate took up that separate bill, SF 170, yesterday, where they did not concur with the House and a conference committee will be appointed.

**Please note the higher education conference committee is scheduled to meet tomorrow (Wednesday) at 6:00 p.m.

Today at the Capitol

10:15 AM
House Capital Investment
Room: 500 N State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Larry Howes
Agenda: HF959 (Howes) Flood hazard mitigation grant funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.

10:30 AM
Senate in Session

2:00 PM
House in Session

4:00 PM
Conference Committee on HF934: K-12 education omnibus bill
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chairs: Rep. Pat Garofalo, Senator Gen Olson
Agenda: HF934: K-12 Education bill

4:00 PM
Conference Committee on SF887: Omnibus jobs and economic development
Room: 107 State Capitol
Chairs: Rep. Bob Gunther, Sen. Geoff Michel
Agenda: SF887 Omnibus jobs and economic growth and development appropriations
Completion of testimony from DEED.
Testimony from the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.

5:00 PM
Conference Committee HF577/SF1047: Omnibus state government finance bill
Room: Capitol TBA
Chairs: Sen. Parry and Rep. Lanning
SENATE CONFEREES: Parry, Daley, Gazelka, Thompson, and Vandeveer
HOUSE CONFEREES: Lanning, Bruce Anderson, Mike Benson, Downey, and Stensrud
Agenda: Please see the attached document, "No Comparable Provisions."

Looking Ahead

Wednesday, May 11

8:00 AM
Senate Finance
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Claire A. Robling
S.F. 1319-Daley: Veterans homes special revenue account provision modification.
S.F. 1320-Daley: Veterans homes work therapy programs profits use authority.
S.F. 1321-Daley: Veterans affairs commissioner federal funds acceptance authorization.
S.F. 943-Ingebrigtsen: Miscellaneous aquaculture, game and fish, hunting, elk crop damage, fish and wildlife management plans, invasive species, natural resources department (DNR) provisions modifications.
S.F. 389-Gazelka: No-fault automobile insurance basic economic loss benefits modifications.
S.F. 1199-Pederson: Prevailing wage provisions modifications.

3:00 PM (or 15 minutes after session)
Senate Capital Investment
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. David H. Senjem
Agenda: To be announced

6:00 PM
Conference Committee on Higher Education Omnibus Bill
Room: 300N State Office Building
Chairs: Rep. Bud Nornes and Sen. Michelle Fischbach
Agenda: HF1101*/SF924 (Nornes/Fischbach) Omnibus higher education finance bill

6:30 PM
Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Morrie Lanning
H.F. 409 (Poppe); S.F. xxxx: IRAP/TRA; MnSCU employee retirement coverage specified, and employer required to provide certain notices.
H.F. 1354 (Lesch); S.F. 1088 (Pappas): SPTRFA; Postretirement adjustment procedures revised, refund interest rate reduced, interest payments on reemployed annuitant savings accounts terminated, and deferred annuity augmentation rate lowered.
H.F. 1628 (Murphy, M.); S.F. xxxx: DTRFA; Definition for vesting added, and leave of absence, retirement, survivor, and disability benefits eligibility modified.
H.F. 1668 (Murphy, M.); S.F. xxxx: PERA; Duluth and Duluth Airport Authority optional correction of erroneous employee deductions and employer contributions.
H.F. 1528 (Morrow); S.F. 1277 (Sheran): MSRS; Increased annuity for survivors of DOT employee killed while engaged in emergency response to flooding.
H.F. 1647 (Lanning); S.F. 1369 (Rosen): Major plans; Statutory salary scale and payroll growth actuarial assumptions revisions

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