Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Week in Review: April 5-9
By: State Senator
The Legislature took a break during the week of March 29 to celebrate the Easter/Passover holidays. Prior to that, the Legislature passed nearly 200 bills that have been signed into law for the current two-year legislative biennium of the more than 7,000 that have been introduced.
This week we resumed committee meetings and anticipate the inclusion of many bills into larger omnibus bills. As we continue through the final month and a half of session the discussion will focus primarily on the current budget deficit.
Here is a more detailed explanation of the past few weeks:
Budget and unallotment
A decision could come at any time from the Minnesota Supreme Court on the issue that could drastically change the course of budget discussions: the lawsuit over Gov. Pawlenty's unallotment authority.
While the case being heard is specifically about the elimination of a $5.3 million program, judges may decide that the governor overstepped his authority by cutting the program with unallotment, and potentially invalidate the entire $2.7 billion in unilateral cuts that he made to balance the budget last year. Such a move would put the Legislature in the position to balance a much greater budget deficit.
Before the holiday break, the Legislature passed and the governor signed phase one of the plan to fix the current billion-dollar gap.
Phase one makes $312 million in spending cuts in economic development, environment, public safety, higher education, transportation, and state and local government. Other budget bills focusing on K-12 education and health and human services will need to make up the rest of the current shortfall, although committee chairmen are awaiting some federal funding for health-care programs.
Another important issue getting a big push this week is education. It was recently announced that Minnesota was left out of the first round of qualifiers for federal "Race to the Top" funding, and Governor Pawlenty is redoubling his efforts to pass his teacher evaluation and student achievement reforms to bring Minnesota in line to qualify for the next round. Already moving through the Legislature are bills that would create alternative pathways for licensing teachers, strengthen teacher-preparatory programs, and requiring stronger evaluation measures for teachers.
Jobs bill - a closer look
Prior to the break, the Legislature passed a significant jobs bill. The measure was credited by the governor as a good first step, but merely points the way the state must go to actually begin to stimulate real business development.
A significant provision in the bill was an "angel investment" tax credit for an investor in a small business of fewer than 25 people operating fewer than ten years in Minnesota. To qualify, the individual or group must make direct investments of at least $10,000 or $30,000 respectively, and credits can be revoked if an investor or fund does not meet the three-year holding period. The idea is to encourage investment in Minnesota small business by Minnesota investors by not taxing them on the amount of money they choose to invest in up and coming companies which provide jobs here in Minnesota.
Another key provision of the bill was to allow the city of Bloomington to use the money it collects specifically for Phase II of Mall of America for any phase of the mall expansion. This allows the city of Bloomington to continue collecting the taxes allowed from 2008 legislation, such as additional general sales tax, lodging tax, admissions and recreation tax, and food and beverage taxes which had been previously earmarked for Phase II expansion of the mall. The requirement of a labor peace agreement with the developers at the Mall of America and a labor organization representing hotel workers is also included in the bill.
Relating to current economic conditions, I have introduced legislation (S.F. 3343) that would provide a one-year extension for qualified JOBZ business subsidy to meet their business-agreement goals that were not met in 2009 because of economic conditions. This would provide for the continued creation of jobs and facility investment in Greater Minnesota.