Tricounty News

Michelle Fischbach, Week in Review

Budget bills week

Senators put in long hours as committees heard over 60 hours of public testimony and minority party input, amending bills and giving initial passage to budget balancing plans. Targets set the overall budget spending level at roughly $34 billion for 2012-13 The plan recognizes the core constitutional requirements of state government funding, but scales back on previously projected growth and spending. While much more work is ahead and many of these issues will change, here are some highlights from the budget bills that we introduced and advanced through the process this week.

Tax relief

A keystone of Senate Republican legislation, the tax bill delivers as much tax relief as possible to individual, business, agricultural and seasonal property taxpayers, and is based on principles of sound tax policy such as simplicity, transparency and stability. Since it consists entirely of property tax aids and credits, the primary reform measures are aimed at minimizing the impact of the reductions to property taxpayers across the state and making reductions in a deliberate manner. It includes:

Direct tax relief to taxpayers of $44.3 million by jump-starting middle-class property tax refunds in FY 2013 Tax relief for Minnesota's job creators by rolling back and phasing out the statewide business property tax by 2023.

A new phased-in military pension income tax subtraction to recognize the service and contributions of our veterans begins to reform the state-local fiscal relationship by providing sales tax exemption for townships

Education: This important bill contains statewide funding increases for general and special education, decreases statewide school property tax compared to current law, lifts state mandates to return control to local communities, and focuses on early reading so kids will go on to succeed in all grades. Future appropriations are taken off of auto-pilot and funding distribution will treat districts fairly and evenly.

Higher Education: This revised budged is based on zeroing out a funding increase that was projected to occur between FY 2010-2011 and FY 2012-2013, but even with these reduced projections, $2.5 billion is projected to be appropriated to higher education during FY 2012-2013. This bill makes steps toward reducing administrative overhead and encouraging true structural reforms in our higher education system, and includes tuition limitations that allow for reasonable increases in tuition.

Jobs and Economic Growth Bill: The proposal offers a significant reform measure by restructuring the legislative version of "earmarking" into competitive grants and prioritizes available resources on funding workforce and housing programs for the unemployed and those most vulnerable.

Judiciary and Public Safety: This bill maintains funding for the courts, increases the public defenders budget, protects funding to domestic abuse shelters and services, and fills a budget hole in the institution's budget caused by reliance on one-time federal stimulus funding during the last budget cycle.

Commerce and Consumer Protection: The measure recommends a nearly 5-percent cut from projected spending, about the same as the governor's recommendation, with increase in the number of employees for bank and insurance examinations, although the net expense would be even because of an end-billing increase.

Agriculture: This bill spends $1 million less than the governor's proposed spending level, protects our livestock and grain industries and our food supply system, and continues to support our export programs. Going forward, it will continue our clean water research efforts, utilize University of Minnesota grants for students, and continue partnerships with commodity groups and educational institutions.

Environment: This omnibus bill focuses on and allocated resources to priorities: DNR enforcement, firefighting, investigating and combating Aquatic Invasive Species and Chronic Wasting Disease, the Coon Rapids Dam commission and fully funding Red River flood damage grants and mitigation. The General Fund level of spending passed for FY 2012-13 is approximately 15 percent less than projected automatic spending growth, and encompasses the Pollution Control Agency (PCA), the Minnesota Zoo, Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Metropolitan Council-Regional Parks, Minnesota Conservation Corps, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR).

Energy: This bill identifies $3.8 million in deficit reduction while increasing the capacity of the Public Utilities Commission to expedite the processing of utility cases to make sure our energy needs won't get in the way of getting Minnesota moving again.

Senator Michelle Fischbach encourages and appreciates constituent input and can be reached by phone at (651) 296-2084, by mail to 226 State Capitol / St. Paul, MN 55155 or via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .