Conference Committee Digs In for Final Two Weeks

The regular legislative session will adjourn two weeks from today. The House and Senate have passed their major budget and tax proposals, and conference committees will now begin to reconcile differences between the two chambers. Lastly, the Governor and his administration will weigh in heavily on the process. Minnesota’s politically divided legislature produced vast differences in taxes, spending and policy.

The emergence of the People of Color & Indigenous (POCI) caucus, primarily in the House DFL majority, and the events stemming from the killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright, have put a huge focus on police accountability and reform. The POCI caucus has left their fingerprints across the whole House DFL budget plan, making a concerted effort to address diversity, equity and inclusion in all areas of state government.

Leadership in the House indicated they would like budget targets set for each conference committee by this Friday in order for them to wrap up their work by May 17. Few around the Capitol are holding their breath that we’ll see these budget targets later this week (or next). Others beleive we’ll be back in mid-June negotiating a budget deal right up to the end of the state’s fiscal year on June 30. DFLers would like a fifth tier income tax hike on families earning more than $1 million per year to pay for a more robust, on-going state budget. However, the GOP argues that the $2.6 billion in federal money and $2.4 billion in state budget reserves is enough to solve the budget descretion that is technically balanced over the next few years, not including inflationary increases.

Education Conference Committee

The Education Conference Committee has it’s first meeting at 1 pm Monday. The first few meetings usually involve staff walking through the provisions in the House and Senate bills. Testimony from the public is typically very limited, while the Governor’s agency commissioners are given latitude to weigh in. Ultimately the Governor either signs or vetoes legislation that makes it to his desk.

As in most budget conference committees, we’ll see the House DFL members make a pitch for an aggressive budget and policy plan, while the Senate GOP members question the need for pages and pages of new policy and spending. The reality is that conference committees can’t accomplish much real work until the Governor, House Speaker and Senate Majority Leaders have agreed to a “global budget” that identifies budget targets and policy provisions for each conference committee.

The Education Conference Committee members are:

Senators: Roger Chamberlain (GOP Lino Lakes), Zack Duckworth (GOP Lakeville), Gene Dornink (GOP Austin), Justin Eichorn (GOP Grand Rapids), Chuck Wiger (DFL Maplewood)

Representatives: Jim Davnie (DFL Minneapolis), Ruth Richardson (DFL Mendota Heights), Hodan Hassan (DFL Minneapolis), Laurie Pryor (DFL Eden Prairie), Ron Kresha (GOP Little Falls.