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Met Council budget oversight

Published (3/23/2012)
By Nick Busse
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Lawmakers could be given veto power over the Metropolitan Council’s annual budget and its capital improvement projects, under a proposal that supporters say will improve the council’s transparency.

Rep. Peggy Scott (R-Andover) sponsors HF2863 that would require the council to submit both its operating and capital budgets for annual legislative approval. Unless authorized by the Legislature, the council could not change its tax levy or spending levels.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the bill March 20 with an amendment successfully offered by Scott. It now moves to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The council is the regional planning agency for the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Its members are appointed by the governor and it has an annual operating budget of $739 million. Scott said an agency that size should have oversight from elected officials. Many committee members agreed.

“We have here a non-elected body that can raise your taxes, condemn your property, and can sue a local government. We need more control of the situation,” said Rep. Bev Scalze (DFL-Little Canada).

Judd Schetnan, the council’s government affairs director, said the bill would wrongly put the Legislature in charge of budgeting for an agency that only receives 10 percent of its funding from the state. Moreover, he said lawmakers already have oversight powers via the Legislative Commission on Metropolitan Government — a joint legislative panel that holds hearings and makes recommendations regarding the council.

“I think that everything that is trying to be accomplished by this bill can be done through the oversight commission,” he said.

Patricia Nauman, executive director of Metro Cities, said her organization did not support the bill because they do not believe it would serve to enhance cooperation between the council and local governments.

Sen. Benjamin Kruse (R-Brooklyn Park) sponsors the companion, SF2179, which awaits action by the Senate Finance Committee.

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