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Energy and commerce spending cuts

Published (3/28/2008)
By Nick Busse
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More than $12 million in General Fund spending would be trimmed from the Commerce Department’s remaining biennial budget under the provisions of HF1812, the House’s supplemental budget bill.

Sponsored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal), the bill includes the recommendations of the House Energy Finance and Policy Division, originally carried in HF2305, sponsored by Rep. Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson). The House Finance Committee approved the bill March 27 and rolled into the supplemental budget bill (HF1812).

The spending reductions would be accomplished largely by shifting money from non-General Fund revenue sources to cover budget shortfalls caused by the state’s projected $938 million deficit. A $2.6 million renewable hydrogen power initiative would also be cancelled. The bill would actually make a slight increase in direct appropriations to the department. New spending items would include $300,000 for a solar rebate program, $175,000 for a broadband mapping project, $130,000 for unclaimed property compliance and $85,000 for a state video franchising study. Cuts include a $540,000 reduction to the state’s Do Not Call program and $46,000 from the operating budget.

The bill also contains several energy-related policy provisions, including:

• requiring that outdoor lighting fixtures installed or replaced with state funds take steps to increase energy efficiency and reduce light pollution;

• establishing a Green Economy Transformation Task Force to help grow the number of jobs related to renewable energy in the state;

• providing for a study of the impact of legislation that would require franchises for video service to be issued by a state agency;

• providing for a statewide inventory and mapping of broadband service and capabilities; and

• providing up to $500,000 from existing accounts to be used to fund studies on cap-and-trade governance, economics and emissions. This provision is contingent on the passage of HF3195/SF2818, the cap-and-trade bill sponsored by Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-New Brighton) and Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul). Both bills await action by the respective body’s finance committee.

A companion bill, SF1475, sponsored by Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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