Legislative Update – April 21, 2017
This week Medicaid cuts and repeal and replace of ACA was put back on the table. It sounds like Congress may take another swing at it next week.
Locally, The Minnesota Legislature returned from its break Tuesday, April 18 with five weeks to complete their work before May 22, the constitutionally mandated adjournment date. Most of the week was spent appointing conferees for major omnibus finance bills and the tax bill, holding conference committee meetings to review House and Senate positions, and initiating budget negotiations.
Reminder: The legislative session has a constitutional adjournment date of May 22 this year.
Budget Negotiations Begin
Budget negotiations between Governor Mark Dayton and legislative leadership began early this week with an exchange of letters between the Governor and House Speaker Kurt Daudt. On Monday, the Governor sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and House Speaker Daudt highlighting his concerns with the budget bills passed before the legislative break. The Governor included 55 letterswritten by his commissioners — which had previously been sent to legislative leaders and committee chairs — detailing numerous policy and budgetary concerns with finance and tax bills. Governor Dayton noted his disappointment with the base level funding cuts to some agencies proposed by the House and Senate, despite a $1.5 billion budget surplus. He authorized commissioners to negotiate on his behalf and made clear that once conference committees have signed their committee reports, the Governor will be open to final negotiations.
On Thursday, Speaker Daudt responded with his own letter. Daudt highlighted three areas of contention:
- Base Levels of Funding: The Governor, at minimum, wants the base levels of funding to be retained for every agency. The House GOP says the committees have examined how the state government operates and have proposed both reductions and increases in spending.
- Voluntary Pre-K: The Governor wants to expand the Voluntary Pre-K to more schools across the state. The House GOP wants an approach that targets three and four year olds from low income households with early learning scholarships.
- Tax Relief: Given the budget surplus, House GOP believes the top priority should be tax relief.
Daudt stated he was optimistic that these differences could be worked out in the next five weeks. He also reiterated that, like the Governor, he would like legislative leadership and the Governor to agree to joint targets by next Friday. Meeting this goal will go a long way towards an orderly and timely conclusion to this session.