The final weeks of the legislative session are in full swing and much work remains on the state’s next biennial budget. DFL House and Senate leadership continue to meet behind closed doors as they attempt to reach agreement on overall funding levels. With the mandatory May 20th adjournment date looming and no final budget bills having been passed, the pace is likely to quicken rapidly next week.
Some of the conference committees have held meetings to discuss issues that are the same or similar in each version of the overall bill. Others are continuing to wait for an overall agreement on spending.
The Governor, House, and Senate DFL have all passed or proposed tax bills which contain a menu of tax increases. There are some similarities between the three proposals, but there are significant differences which could take some time to work through. Each bill calls for an increase in the income tax, but each would affect taxpayers at different income levels. The Senate tax proposal includes an expansion of the sales tax to services and clothing (while the overall rate would drop to 6 percent), while the House would increase the alcohol tax.
As the wait continues for DFL leadership to come to an overall agreement on total government spending, the Senate has been busy passing individual bills off the floor and in committees. This week, a couple of major pieces of legislation were moved off the floor and out of the Senate Finance Committee.
The full Senate voted on and passed a bill that would increase the state’s minimum wage by $.25 each of the next three years until it reaches $7.75 per hour in 2015. The first increase would occur later in 2013.
Also this week, a bill that would allow a vote by licensed day care providers and personal care workers on whether they would be unionized was heard in the Senate Finance Committee. After a lengthy debate, the bill failed on an 11-11 tie vote. However, the DFL majority on the committee, after receiving significant pressure from their leadership, forced a second vote, When this new vote was taken,
Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Plymouth/Minnetonka) switched her vote and the bill passed, without recommendation, 12-10. This legislation now awaits action by the full Senate.
Other Happenings: The conference committee on the Omnibus Health and Human Services bill meet this week to adopt some provisions that were the same in both versions of the bill. Work was then postponed while the closed door negotiations between leadership continue. The State Senate has not officially proposed a capital investment (“bonding”) bill yet this year, although there is still time in the next week to pass a bill if approved by the Senate. The Capital Investment Committee met this week to discuss bonding requests of the Department of Transportation. Both the House and Governor Dayton have already released bonding proposals, with the House suggesting $858 million in borrowing
and the Governor would spend
$750 million. This week the Senate Education Finance Division approved “Safe and Supportive Schools” legislation, which is commonly called the “Bullying Bill.” Supporters argue that bullying must be addressed with a statewide mandate that involves oversight by the Minnesota Department of Education, others raised concerns and questions over the measure, pointing out that it includes vague and sweeping definitions of what constitutes bullying and that it will tie the hands of teachers and administrators with legal red tape.
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/