With roughly two weeks remaining in the 2016 legislative session, we are once again in a holding pattern when it comes to the two most significant areas of discussion – tax relief and supplemental transportation funding.
This is because we do not have budget targets.
At this stage of the game, budget targets are determined by the speaker of the House, the Senate majority leader, and the governor. Once these figures are determined, the conference committees assigned to craft compromise tax relief and transportation proposals can get to work.
For example, our House tax relief proposal would help farmers, senior citizens, middle class families, veterans, and Main Street business owners. The Senate’s proposal doesn’t go nearly as far.
But without a figure, negotiators are powerless to do anything. For example, the House/Senate taxes conference committee could settle on dedicating $700 million to tax relief, but if legislative leadership agreed that the total should only be $300 million, all of our work would have been pointless.
This hurry up and wait process is extremely frustrating, and it continues to happen year after year, regardless of what party is in charge of the legislative bodies or the governor’s office.
In the case of both tax relief and transportation, these proposals were passed by their respective bodies one year ago. Twelve months later, lawmakers still have no idea of which taxes we are going to cut, or how much.
This atmosphere of procrastination creates a decision making process that is not only awkward, but wrong. It shouldn’t take this long to determine the final numbers, finish the job and adjourn early instead of constantly taking session down to the wire.
Here’s hoping we will receive budget targets soon. If recent history is any indication, we probably will see them later rather than sooner. Minnesotans are tired of this slow dance, and they should be.