May 3, 2017

Legislative Update – April 28, 2017

After a long week of Conference Committee hearings and testimony it appears as if the legislative leaders have agreed to budget targets … sort of. Over the last two weeks, the leaders have had numerous meetings with Governor Dayton, exchanged letters and held dueling press conferences. This is all very typical behavior at this time of the session, in an attempt to apply pressure and reach agreement.

Today, the House and Senate announced that they have come to an agreement on spending targets for the various budget areas. Now they just need to iron out some of the funding details and policy provisions and then they can negotiate with the Governor. Speaker Daudt and Majority Leader Gazelka indicated that they would like to find agreement with the Governor by next Thursday in order to give Conference Committees time to review and pass the final bills. It certainly could happen but this is also the point of session where many arbitrary deadlines are set – and often not met. If that happens we can expect both sides to express “great disappointment” in the other.

There are also still plenty of areas of disagreement on the table, particularly in taxes, transportation and education areas. Governor Dayton has said that he wants more investment and dedicated funding for transit and roads. He also noted this week that he would veto any voucher program that diverts public funds to private schools. So, not only do budget targets need to be set, there are a number of policy provisions that will need to be resolved before end of session as well.

What’s Next?

The GOP leaders set a few deadlines for the coming week, at today’s press conference. First they would like Conference Committees to agree to funding and policy specifics by Monday. Secondly they wanted to find agreement with the Governor on the next round of spending targets, by Thursday.

I think both of these deadlines could be met but there some issues to overcome and it is notable that there are no hearings scheduled as of yet, for this weekend. While that could certainly change, it would be odd if these agreements were made without any additional public hearings.

Bottom line, I am leery about the ability of both sides to find real agreement by Thursday. With so many moving parts hanging in the balance, I don’t expect the global deal to be reached as early as next week. We might see some smaller bills agreed to but I still think the major disagreements will take longer to hash out, and while major strides could be made, I would be surprised if total agreement is reached by then.

Cap. O’Rourke