Lawmakers close to reaching deal for special session

It appears that Gov. Dayton and House GOP leaders have worked out a framework over the past few days that will allow the state to avoid a partial government shutdown. They have indicated that a tentative agreement has been reached in regards to education, but there are still some details to work out on other issues before a special session will be called. However, both the Governor and House leadership have stated that they are close to reaching final agreements and that a special session could be called as early as Saturday.

Here is a rundown of how the GMNP’s priorities are shaping up for the special session:

Economic Development – Several GMNP priorities were funded in the omnibus jobs bill vetoed by Gov. Dayton, including broadband grants, job training, workforce housing grants and the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant program. At this point, it appears that most of the negotiations regarding the jobs bill deal with policy issues rather than dollar amounts. We are cautiously optimistic that funding for our priorities will make it into the final bill. We are also hopeful that the bill will include some language that will make the BDPI program stronger and more useable for Greater Minnesota communities.

In his veto letter, Gov. Dayton expressed disappointment at the low amount of broadband funding ($10.8 million) in the jobs bill, but little has been discussed publicly about negotiations surrounding this issue. In a meeting this week with GMNP Executive Director Dan Dorman, the Governor’s Chief of Staff Jaime Tincher indicated that they are still pushing for additional money for broadband.

One area of concern in the jobs bill is language pertaining to workforce housing grants. The GMNP supports language in the omnibus bill that would expand the pilot program created last year within DEED. The GMNP has also supported language from the House’s version of the jobs bill that would restrict the program to Greater Minnesota, which we hope will be included in the final bill. Under the Senate’s version, the program would be open to areas statewide where housing needs may be driven by different causes other than those driving workforce housing shortages in Greater Minnesota.

Environment – The GMNP supports several provisions that were in the vetoed agriculture & environment bill, including a requirement for independent peer review on certain costly regulations and a cost impact analysis to determine the cumulative cost of several recently adopted or soon-to-be-adopted water quality regulations. We are hopeful that some of our provisions will survive the final bill that comes out of the special session, but it is unknown what sort of revisions they have undergone during negotiations.

Taxes – It is doubtful that lawmakers will take up a tax bill during the special session. There is a slight chance that some small tax provisions could be taken up, but it is highly unlikely that there will be a large bill that contains the workforce housing tax credits sought by the GMNP.

Transportation – Hopes for a major comprehensive transportation bill are dead for this year. It is virtually certain that transportation will not be a part of a special session.