UPDATED: 11:21 p.m.
More than a week after first convening, the omnibus supplemental budget conference committee met again Wednesday evening to try and reach agreement on the final articles of HF4099/ SF3656* – a compilation of many of this session’s major omnibus bills.
Conferees first met May 8 to begin learning about the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud) and Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) – who co-chair the committee. Negotiations have been ongoing to find common ground that will allow a final bill to be repassed by both bodies and, hopefully, signed into law by Dayton.
The group is expected to reconvene sometime Thursday to finish the health and human services discussion it began Tuesday.
Here’s what was agreed upon Wednesday by the conference committee:
State government finance
House and Senate leaders tasked with closing the $6.79 million gap between each body’s position in the state government finance provisions found some middle ground – and it looks like the Revenue and Human Rights departments dodged a multi-million spending reduction bullet. But the administration voiced frustration and concern over proposed reforms on how state agencies budget for cybersecurity.
The latest numbers reflect a $1.62 million spending increase, which is much closer to the Senate’s initial position of a $1.55 million increase than the House’s $5.24 million cut. The governor initially proposed a $34.44 million spending increase.
The proposed conference committee report doesn’t include the House’s $3.88 million spending reduction to the Revenue Department or the $1.4 million reduction to the Human Rights Department’s operating budget. However, the report does include:
The proposal scraps a House provision that would move $26 million from the Vikings stadium fund into the General Fund to pay for three veterans homes in Bemidji, Montevideo and Preston; that measure was tacked onto the House capital investment bill. The proposed conference committee report also includes policy provisions that would:
After reaching agreements on the jobs, economic development and housing articles earlier this week, the conference committee has found common ground on several provisions dealing with energy.
Among the things these articles would do:
The committee did not adopt a section in the policy article that would have required the Public Utilities Commission to relocate to Virginia, Minn. Commerce Commissioner Jessica Looman testified against this provision, saying it would increase costs and limit the department’s ability to be effective.
Looman also shared concerns about several other provisions, including capping how much Xcel pays into the Renewable Development Account and utilities being able to include pension costs in their rate base, but added the articles also contain good items, without being specific.
An item not included in the articles the committee considered Wednesday was a controversial proposal to give Xcel Energy more “regulatory certainty” when it comes to doing work on its nuclear power plants.
The public safety agreement includes $10 million in additional funding, of which $6.6 million is designated to the Department of Corrections to cover the department’s health care contract. The department sought $7.8 million, a number the governor put forth in his supplemental budget.
Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy said last month that Fiscal Year 2019 health contract funding was not included in last year’s budget law because the department was negotiating the contract at that time. He said the Legislature directed the department to submit the request this year with final numbers known, which came in $3 million lower than last year’s request.
To make up the difference, money would likely be shifted from treatment areas, creating further concern about corrections officer safety and that inmates won’t be as well-suited for life upon release.
Other proposed spending includes $2.94 million for the Guardian ad Litem program in Fiscal Year 2019 to help comply with state and federal mandates to represent the best interests of children in juvenile and family court proceedings. The House proposal called for nearly $3.67 million, which would create 45.5 full-time equivalent positions. The Senate position was no additional dollars.
The agreement also calls for $275,000 for two forensic scientists at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and $48,000 for the newly created Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
A $2 technology fee now charged on certain court filings would be extended five years until June 30, 2023. Money goes into a court technology fund, which provides funding for court technological needs.
Policy provisions in the agreement include:
Introduced in March 2017 by Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein (DFL-New Brighton) and Sen. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights), HF2470/SF2259, aims to stop the cycle of opioid misuse and addiction through education.
The conference committee tasked with hammering out the differences that divide the House and Senate on a laundry list of major issues met for the first time Tuesday afternoon.
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