Greetings from the House, where it’s not an official budget year but the majority soon will be bringing omnibus finance bills to the floor, much of which has to do with the state’s $10 billion surplus. Here is more on that and other subjects from St. Paul:
A conference committee has started meeting to reconcile differences between House and Senate packages for drought relief that impacted farmers throughout our state last summer. The House bill includes a $5.1 million total – and a maximum of $10,000 available to each farmer. The Senate bill includes a $7 million appropriation with up to $5,000 available per farmer.
Overall, the House’s proposal says $1 million would go to livestock farmers, $1 million to specialty crop farmers, $500,000 for farmers’ market vendors and $100,000 for livestock hay and forage. Meanwhile, the Senate bill has $5.5 million for livestock farmers, $1.5 million for livestock or specialty crop farmers, and up to $100,000 of the $1.5 million for livestock feed transport.
A big sticking point in negotiations centers on $13.3 million the House provides to the DNR for trees in its bill, compared with no DNR dollars in the Senate version. There also are differences in how the relief is delivered, with House Democrats establishing priorities based on a county’s drought relief designation. The Senate relief would be provided on a first-come, first-served basis.
Decisions related to the state’s historic surplus will take center stage as we near the end of the session. It is important to note the state is fully funded for the current biennium, so there is no threat of a state shutdown if there is no agreement by late May, when the Legislature is set to adjourn.
There are significant differences between what House and Senate majorities propose on this subject:
The Senate recently passed the largest tax cut in state history, at more than $8 billion. This accounts for most of the budget surplus and includes eliminating the state’s Social Security income tax and reducing income taxes. The average tax relief per filer would be $759, with a family making $100,000 per year receiving a tax break of $1,066 every year.
House Democrats are taking a different path by proposing $21 in new government spending for every $1 in tax cuts. Their plan spends more on programs, with total tax reductions in the House Democrat tax bill amounting to less than $600 million over the next three years to go along with more than $12.2 billion in new government spending. That represents a 14 percent state spending increase.
Side note: There is no funding in the House Democrat budget bills to repay the deficit in Minnesota’s unemployment insurance trust fund to reverse the recent tax hikes that hit Minnesota employers.
I’m really hoping to see some progress on measures to improve public safety in our state during the final weeks of session. It has been disappointing to see such little movement to this point in the session, with common-sense proposals not receiving due consideration in the committee process.
Watch for more from the Capitol soon. Until next time, please let me know how I can help.