This week at the Capitol, the Senate has been continuing work on the state budget. Numerous committee specific budget bills have been heard in the Finance Committee and passed off the Senate Floor. That work continues and likely will into next week.
Once a budget bill is passed by both the Senate and the House, there will be a conference committee convened to work out the differences between the two proposals. The governor will also begin to engage the legislative committees during these conferences in order to work toward final agreement on all the separate areas of the budget.
The one major missing piece of the budget discussions is that Senate Tax bill. This legislation will provide the framework for how all the other spending bills will be paid for once they’re all finalized. Work has begun on the tax bill and it will likely include a variety of provisions that were contained in Governor Dayton’s original tax proposal.
While the full version of the bill is expected to be released next week, it is likely to include income tax increases, an expansion of the sales tax to services, goods, and clothing, while dropping the overall rate charged, as well as a $.94 per pack increase in the tobacco tax. Some of the items that will be subject to the new sales tax would include: Auto repairs, Haircuts, Over-the-Counter Drugs, and Clothing (not just those over $100 as was the case in the Governor’s proposal)
The Health and Human Services Finance Bill, Senate File 1034, passed out of the Health and Human Services Finance committee and is working its way through other committees this week. It will likely be up on the Senate floor next week. While this bill makes a $152 million reduction to forecasted spending, the bill actually spends $500,000 more than current law.
This week the Senate passed the State Government Omnibus Finance Bill (SF 1589), which eliminates review of state government agencies, increases the legislature’s budget by 10 percent, and increases the salary of legislators by 35 percent. I opposed this legislation for a number of reasons, including the inclusion of the pay increase for legislators and the governor. The Senate considered and passed the Omnibus Higher Education bill this week and it now awaits a conference committee with the House. This legislation increases spending by 10 percent over the previous biennium and includes $80 in new money for the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and for financial aid programs. On Monday the Environment Finance Committee heard, debated and passed the large omnibus environment, natural resources, agriculture, commerce, energy, jobs, and economic development appropriations bill (SF1607 Tomassoni.). This legislation has since been passed by the Finance Committee and sent to the Senate Floor where it will likely be debated this afternoon. This week the data practices omnibus bill passed off the Senate floor. The data practices omnibus bill includes many provisions intended to protect Minnesotans’ information. Of great concern is what information the government, specifically the Department of Health, is collecting on Minnesotans, what consent the government obtained to collect and store the data, and how the government uses the data. The bill is now awaiting action in the House of Representatives, and it is likely that we will have a conference committee between the two bodies to iron out differences. The Senate Education Committee passed the Omnibus Education bill this week and it was referred to the Tax Committee for further hearing. The bill includes a variety of new spending within education, including new dollars on the per pupil formula. The bill also delays the implementation of new testing for perspective teachers that would have taken effect in 2014.
Senator Michelle Fischbach encourages and appreciates constituent input and can be reached by phone at (651) 296-2084, by mail to G 15 State Office Building,