Saturday, June 13, 2015

So What Happened?  It took a bit longer than expected when the day began, but the special session did manage to finish in one sitting.  It was smooth sailing, albeit with some spirited debate, for four of the five bills considered by the Legislature on Friday, with the complications coming on the Agricultural and Environment bill.  That bill did not pass the Senate on its first pass through, but the Senate did pass it after it had been amended.  The House struck those amendments and sent it back to the Senate, where the bill did receive enough votes to pass.  Senate Republicans supplied the bulk of the votes to pass the bill on its return from the House in return for a fair hearing on tax cut proposals next session.  As the session ends, there appears to be approximately $800 million on the bottom line going into next year and if the economy remains steady, that will likely mean there will be a lot of discussion on taxes and transportation, the two major budget areas that were left unaddressed in 2015.

How did we get to this point?  Good question and a lot will depend upon who you ask.  I think MinnPost's Briana Bierschbach did a nice job laying out the difficulty in getting the Legislature to come to "yes" in a way that would have prevented this special session and some of those difficulties are becoming endemic to the system as a whole and will likely resurface again in the future, especially with divided government.  For those of you who haven't read much of Bierschbach's work, she's done a marvelous job since joining MinnPost reporting on the Minnesota Legislature.

Here's a link to that article:  Briana Bierschbach MinnPost Article

The only perspective I would add to her viewpoints is the effect technology has had the legislative process.  It used to be that decisions had to be made well in advance of the waning hours of the session because the technology couldn't handle the actual physical production of bills.  Now, decisions can be forestalled until the last possible minute and when there are ideological differences, it's pretty much a recipe for a special session.  I think what gave this session it's own flavor that led to the special session were the lack of a tax bill (nothing keeps everyone in line like the tax bill), but the differences in approaches on the tax issue would have made fashioning a bill very difficult.  The other item that contributed greatly was legislative leadership setting its budget targets separately from the Governor in trying to bring the session to an end.  Whether or not there will be finger-pointing over that remains to be seen.  Hard to say and I'm just spit-balling here (and I never question proceedings at the highest level because they are a lot of dimensions to those decisions).

Like Representative Sarah Anderson said in the article I linked above, "You can't change the process without changing human nature."  It's a human process and I think everyone, even those who are disappointed with the outcome this year or the process in general, has to keep that in mind.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Special Session Update.  The Special Session isn't quite put to bed yet, but HF 1 (they start the numbers from the beginning with the special session)--the omnibus education funding and policy bill--passed both houses of the the Legislature quite comfortably today on votes of 115-10 in the House and 53-12 in the Senate.  The bill the passed was nearly identical to the bill that passed the Legislature during the regular session with $125 million in new money added to the target to bring the total spending in the bill to $525 million.  Here is a summary of the funding changes.

Provision  SS CC Difference
Basic Formula $346,312 $283,250 $63,062
Owatonna Referendum Fix $295 $0 $295
English Language $3,102 $0 $3,102
Non-Public Aid $369 $335 $34
Non-Public Transportation $988 $896 $92
Compensatory Pilots $10,000 $0 $10,000
Tribal Contract $5,000 $0 $5,000
Indian Education Formula Aid $16,743 $7,239 $9,504
Early Leaning Scholarships $48,250 $30,750 $17,500
ECFE $2,806 $2,558 $248
Headstart $10,000 $0 $10,000
Northside Achievement Zone $2,000 $0 $2,000
St. Paul Promise $2,000 $0 $2,000
Education Partnership Pilots $1,002 $0 $1,002
English Language LEAPS $1,161 $0 $1,161
Dollars are in thousands.  


Friday, June 05, 2015

And With No Further Ado . . . Behold the education bill that has been agreed upon between the Governor and the Legislature.  I will devour it over the next day and provide a description of where it differs from the bill passed during the regular session.  If you go to the Committee Documents section, you will find links to four documents that have been posted today (June 5, 2015).  Those are the pertinent documents.

Link:  House Education Funding Committee Homepage

Monday, June 01, 2015

It Appears There is a Deal.  There isn't much in the way of details, but it has been announced that accord on the big furniture in the E-12 budget bill has been reached.  At this point, it looks like the overall budget number that has been agreed to is $525 million over base (the Governor's last offer on the last night of the regular session).  The only detail that has been announced is the agreement contains a 2% increase in the basic formula in both years of the coming biennium.  This is an increase from the conference committee report that passed the House and Senate where the increase was 1.5% in the first year and 2.0% in the second year.  This adds about $70 million to the conference committee report's $283 million that would be delivered through the basic formula.  That would leave an approximately $55 million that is yet unaccounted for in the budget agreement, the math being $400 million (conference committee target) + $70 million (additional money on basic formula) + X (appropriations yet to be announced) = $525 million (special session E-12 bill budget target).

It is my sincere hope that the basic framework of the bill already passed by the Legislature remains in place and that the newly-minted facilities financing program remains part of the bill.  I would venture that there will be additional money going into school readiness or other early education programs and it will be interesting to see whether or not that's the case.

It will also be interesting to see if any new policy issues surface in the revised bill.  I will provide you with details as they become available.  Here are media links on the story:

StarTribune:  Budget Deal Forming

Minnesota Public Radio:  Budget Talks Break Through

Pioneer Press:  Dayton, Daudt Very Close on Budget Deal