Legislators arrived at the State Capitol on Tuesday with seven days to put together an entire state budget for the 2018-19 biennium before they must constitutionally adjourn.
As promised, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed five omnibus budget bills sent to him Monday after vetoing five others Friday.
Dayton and legislative leaders resumed budget negotiations Tuesday. Here’s a look at the five bills Dayton rejected Monday evening:
Although the $3.2 billion omnibus higher education finance bill would have provided a $125 million funding increase over the current total, Dayton said in his veto letter that it “comes up short” and doesn’t provide students with adequate access to need-based aid.
“While manty other states are disinvesting in postsecondary education, we gain an edge by investing,” Dayton wrote, calling for a $318 million investment.
HF2477/ SF2214*, sponsored by Rep. Bud Nornes (R-Fergus Falls) and Senate President Michelle Fischbach (R-Paynesville), also would have risked layoffs, limited course offerings and decreased support services by setting tuition rates for Minnesota State, according to Dayton.
Dayton also stressed his opposition to the inclusion of policy language in the bill and objected to the bill‘s proposed funding levels for MnDRIVE and NRRI, a lack of investment in cyber security and data infrastructure at the Office of Higher Education, and the lack of an agency operating budget adjustment.
Sponsored by Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) and Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona), HF2209/ SF1937* included budget appropriations for a variety of state agencies, including the Department of Employment and Economic Development, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, the Commerce Department, the Department of Labor and Industry, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and others.
In his veto letter, Dayton said the $378 million measure insufficiently funds several of those agencies and “contains policies that will limit workforce and economic development opportunities.”
Dayton wrote that he is “exceedingly disappointed” that in the context of a projected $1.65 billion budget surplus, the bill would eliminate equity grants and in his view underfund the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program, the Minnesota Investment Fund and the Job Creation Fund.
The bill also “would have the cumulative impact of removing citizen input in energy infrastructure decisions,” Dayton wrote, citing a rollback on solar energy and “rewriting the intent of the Renewable Development Fund.”
Dayton said he was disappointed to see no funding or funding below his recommendations in areas such as vocational training for people with disabilities, academic assistance for homeless children and enforcement of wage-theft laws. He also cited a half dozen examples of “extraneous policy language that I have made clear I find objectionable.”
The omnibus judiciary and public safety conference committee agreement (HF896/ SF803*) calls for $2.25 billion in spending, an $85 million increase over projected base, nearly the midpoint between initial increases put forth by the House and Senate.
That was not nearly enough for Dayton, whose budget request sought almost $262.2 million in new spending above current base.
In his veto letter, Dayton said the conference committee report “provides little funding for the most important responsibilities of government, to protect our citizens and improve public safety for all of Minnesota. Not only is this level of funding seriously inadequate, there are also many policy provisions included that should be debated separately.”
In particular, Dayton was critical of the lack of funding Judicial Branch officials say is needed “to maintain a well-functioning court system.” He also noted staffing in certain areas at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension needs to be increased to meet “significant increases in requests for assistance in complex homicide and narcotics investigations and laboratory analysis.”
Dayton also objects to policy language relating to potential use of the Appleton prison and that which would prohibit the Department of Public Safety from engaging in “rulemaking regarding lawful status for a driver’s license.”
House and Senate Republicans proposed nearly $1.13 billion in tax relief, noting that the projected $1.65 billion budget surplus came from residents being overtaxed, and the money should be returned. The governor, on the other hand, says the surplus affords an opportunity in state priorities.
In his veto letter, Dayton states the bill “prioritizes unsustainable tax cuts now and into the future over investment in prekindergarten, higher education and economic development … and prioritizes tax relief to some of the most fortunate in our state.” His letter singles out $500 million in the 2018-19 biennium in business and estate tax cuts.
Among the items sought after by the governor and absent from the bill is expansion of the Working Family Credit. “This credit helps working families across Minnesota pay for basic needs and is a proven tool to fight poverty,” he wrote.
He also bemoaned the minimal amount of money the bill targeted for local government and county program aid, which pays for street maintenance and essential services. Instead, he said the bill had provisions that took away local control and placed limitations on local budgeting decision-making.
“This includes prohibiting imposing fees or taxes on merchant-provided bags, disallowing any public money for a zip rail project between Rochester and the Twin Cities and reducing LGA for cities that allow for defendant to enter into diversion programs for minor offenses,” the governor’s letter said.
While all sides can “agree Minnesota’s transportation system needs significant new funding beyond existing revenues,” Dayton said in his veto letter rejecting HF861, the omnibus transportation bill passed by the House and Senate was “disheartening and wholly inadequate” and would impede the Twin Cities metro’s efforts to build out its transit system.
The $5.9 billion, two-year Republican plan would have used a shift in transportation-related tax revenues away from the General Fund, and $600 million in borrowing, to boost spending on road and bridge construction in the next biennium.
That route, the governor wrote, “fails to provide long-term, sustainable, and dedicated funding for the state and local transportation systems.”
Dayton said he is willing to sign a bill without a gas tax hike, his preferred source of funding for increased road and bridge dollars, but that HF861 relied on “speculative general funds to make significant trunk highway bond payments over the next 20 years.”
Transit spending was another area of concern the governor identified. The legislation would have provided a one-time boost in funding to Metro Transit for debt reduction — a drastic turnabout from its original proposal of a significant cut in funding for the Metropolitan Council’s bus and rail operations — but Dayton said it still would have forced a reduction in core bus service.
Proposed Metropolitan Council governance changes included in the bill also drew the governor’s criticism.
Under that restructuring, Dayton and future governors would continue to hold the power to appoint the planning board’s chair. However, the rest of the council — currently also appointed by the governor — would be comprised of county officials and local elected officials.
House Public Information Services Editor LeeAnn Schutz, Assistant Editor Mike Cook, and writers Jonathan Avise, Tory Cooney and Chris Steller contributed to this story.
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