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House, Senate conferees start meeting on jobs and energy bill

Sen. David Tomassoni, left, Rep. Pat Garofalo confer May 6 during the first meeting of the Omnibus Energy and Jobs Policy and Finance Conference Committee. Photo by Andrew VonBank

The House and Senate are roughly $77 million apart on proposed jobs and energy funding for the 2016-17 biennium, with dozens of differences in policy provisions.

The conference committee on the omnibus energy and jobs policy and finance met for the first time Wednesday, starting an overview of competing visions of two omnibus bills (HF843/SF2101*).

The panel took no action and its 10 members made no comments, aside from brief remarks by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and Sen. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), conference committee co-chairs and sponsors of the bills.

Staff presented a 10-page spreadsheet of change items, then began making side-by-side comparisons — getting about one-sixth of the way through the bills in the two-hour meeting.

Garofalo pledged Republican-dominated House conferees would be able to work with the mostly DFL Senate members: “The Tomassonis and the Garofalos can do business.”

Quipped Tomassoni: “The question is, who’s the Godfather?”

At nearly $405 million, Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed jobs and energy budget is about $65 million more than the House and $13 million less than the Senate

Within the House and Senate bills are differences both large and small, across a wide range of areas. A sampling:

  • the Senate would appropriate nearly $30 million more than the House to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency;
  • the House would spend $2.6 million more on Explore Minnesota Tourism than the Senate;
  • the Senate would spend $10.05 million more on programs to end homelessness than the House;
  • the House would repeal regulations on gold bullion dealers, saving $1.28 million;
  • the Senate would spend $642,000 to regulate debt collectors;
  • the House would close the Minnesota Film and TV Board; and
  • the House would allow hydropower-generated electricity to meet the state’s renewable energy standard, to be renamed advanced energy standards.

The committee is scheduled to meet again Thursday.

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