Letter: Several budget bills move forwardSenators put in long hours as committees heard over 60 hours of public testimony, amending bills and giving initial passage to Republican budget balancing plans.
By: Dist. 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, Worthington Daily Globe
Senators put in long hours as committees heard over 60 hours of public testimony, amending bills and giving initial passage to Republican budget balancing plans. In order to keep Senate work on schedule, legislative leadership set an aggressive March 25 date for finance committees to report appropriations bills. Since the first day of session, there have been about 320 Senate committee hearings, many of them dedicated to preparing our budget plan.
Targets set the overall budget spending level at roughly $34 billion for 2012-13, protecting funding levels especially for education and public safety. The plan recognizes the core constitutional requirements of state government funding, but scales back on previously projected growth and spending.
In the Agriculture and Rural Economies Committee, we passed a bill that spends $1 million less than the Governor’s proposed spending level, protects our livestock and grain industries and our food supply system, and continues to support our export programs. Going forward it will continue our clean water research efforts, utilize University of Minnesota grants for students, and continue partnerships with commodity groups and educational institutions.
On Monday morning, the bill passed on the Senate floor with a bipartisan vote of 39-25. The legislation, Senate File 1016, appropriates $76,840,000 of general fund dollars to the Agriculture and Rural Economies budget. The bill accomplishes the goals that I set as the chair of the committee. I am eager to send the bill to the governor for consideration after passage of the House counterpart and conference committee modifications.
While much work lies ahead in all budget areas including agriculture and many of these issues will change, here are some highlights from a few of the budget bills that we have advanced last week.
Tax relief: A keystone of Senate Republican legislation, the tax bill delivers as much tax relief as possible to individual, business, agricultural and seasonal property taxpayers, and is based on principles of sound tax policy such as simplicity, transparency and stability. Since it consists entirely of property tax aids and credits, the primary reform measures are aimed at minimizing the impact of the reductions to property taxpayers across the state and making reductions in a deliberate manner. It includes:
l More than $200 million in total tax relief.
l Tax relief for Minnesota’s job creators by rolling back and phasing out the statewide business property tax by 2023.
l Direct tax relief to taxpayers of $44.3 million by jump starting middle-class property tax refunds in FY 2013.
l A new phased-in military pension income tax subtraction to recognize the service and contributions of our veterans.
l Begins to reform the state-local fiscal relationship by providing sales tax exemption for townships.
Education: This important bill contains statewide funding increases for general and special education, decreases statewide school property tax compared to current law, lifts state mandates to return control to local communities, and focuses on early reading so kids will go on to succeed in all grades. Future appropriations are taken off of auto-pilot and funding distribution will treat districts fairly and evenly. The bill contains a short-term school salary freeze and long-term contract reform, and future funding, tenure, and compensation are linked to teacher and school performance.
Jobs and Economic Growth Bill: The proposal offers a significant reform measure by restructuring the legislative version of “earmarking” into competitive grants and prioritizes available resources on funding workforce and housing programs for the unemployed and those most vulnerable.
Judiciary and public safety: This bill maintains funding for the courts, increases the public defenders budget, protects funding to domestic abuse shelters and services, and fills a budget hole in the Institutions budget caused by reliance on one-time federal stimulus funding during the last budget cycle.
For a more complete look at all of the budget areas, visit www.senate.mn to see up-to-date budget spreadsheets which outline the proposed appropriations.
This week: The Senate Finance Committee will continue to hear committee budgets bills and send them to the floor. The Senate will be holding floor session daily to process budget and get them in shape with House companions in order to send to Gov. Dayton.
Dist. 22 Sen. Doug Magnus