The House has passed all of its omnibus budget bills and we are now in the conference-committee process in creating a new two-year state budget. The focus now is on getting agreement on House and Senate versions of each finance bill in preparation for final approval by each body. Then it will be up to the governor to act, either approving bills or sending us back to the drawing board with his veto pen.
As chairman of the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee, I am on the conference committee related to that portion of our budget. Our first meeting was informational in nature as we did a side-by-side comparison of House and Senate higher education bills.
Much will happen over the next week or so as the May 18 date for adjournment draws closer.
I will keep you up to speed as things transpire at the Capitol but, for now, I would like to pass along the breakdown of a legislative survey I made available online this session. Thank you to all the people who participated and below are the results.
The February Forecast showed that Minnesota is projected to have a $1.9 billion surplus for Minnesota’s 2016-17 budget. What should the legislature do with that money?
14% Increase spending
14% Return it to the taxpayers
25% Return it to the taxpayers with tax reforms
28% Keep it in the state's reserves
19% A combination of A,C, and C
Currently, in tight budgeting times school districts make layoff decisions based on teacher seniority. Some legislators are advocating for a reform that allows schools to also consider teacher performance with tenure in those decisions. Do you support making this change?
What is the best approach for addressing the problems with MNsure?
49% It isn't working, repeal it entirely
20% It can be fixed by enacting significant reforms
14% It's working, keep it as it currently is
17% Give Minnesotans more options outside of MNsure
Under Minnesota law, Sunday liquor sales are illegal in Minnesota. Do you support repealing this law, allowing liquor stores to sell alcohol on Sundays?
28% Allow counties to decide whether liquor stores in their jurisdiction may be open on Sundays
Do you support Gov. Mark Dayton's proposal to increase the state gas tax by 6.5 percent at the wholesale level (roughly 16 cents per gallon at today's prices)?
What should be done to improve long-term care for seniors?
8% Relieve burdensome administrative and paperwork requirements for long-term care facilities
25% Combat a shortage of long-term care workers by expanding training scholarships and employment incentives such as loan forgiveness
28% Create a tax-exempt savings plan to encourage people to save for future long-term care costs
28% Increase funding for long-term care facilities
Do you support any of the following tax reform policies?
33% Exempt seniors' Social Security income from taxation
6% Exempt military pensions from taxation
19% Align state taxes with federal law to allow Minnesotans to take full advantage of IRS tax breaks
36% Repeal recent tax increases from the last two years
What is the best way to grow jobs in Minnesota?
17% Increase state funding for construction projects across Minnesota
33% Pass tax relief and incentives to encourage business growth and job creation
17% Limit state spending to the amount of revenue taken in and slow government growth
14% Use surplus funds to offer income tax relief so taxpayers can keep more of their hard-earned money
0% Raise taxes and increase spending on state programs
14% Increase education funding and focus on workforce development