Where do things stand at the Legislature?
There are only 10 days left in the 2016 Legislative Session, but there has been very little movement on the major issues of spending, taxes, capital investment (aka bonding), and transportation:
Spending – Since this is the second year of the biennium, most of the spending items are combined in what is referred to as the “omnibus omnibus” bill. On Tuesday, the conference committee held its first meeting to go over the differences in the two bills. The committee has met several times since then, but no actions have been taken. This bill contains, among many other things, the funding and language changes for the broadband infrastructure grant program.
Taxes – The Taxes Conference Committee has not yet met so there has been no action. The Senate tax proposal contains the GMNP Workforce Housing Tax Credit program (our top legislative priority) and an increase in Local Government Aid.
Transportation – Late last week the Senate made an offer on transportation, reducing their proposed gas tax increase from 16.5 cents down to 12 cents. On Wednesday, the House made an offer to add $46 million in cash into Corridors of Commerce, as well as various policy changes. House Republicans also held a press conference this morning to call on the Senate and Governor to ditch their plans for a gas tax increase.
The House, Senate and Governor all express a strong desire to pass a transportation bill, but a compromise still seems far away. The big sticking points are a gas tax increase and transit funding. The Senate and Governor are in favor of gas tax increase and a local sales tax to pay for transit, while the House wants general fund money for transportation and opposes transit without Met Council reforms.
Bonding – Last Thursday, the Senate DFL’s $1.7 billion bonding bill (which was about $300M larger than the Governor’s plan) failed to pass off the Senate floor. The bill included $15 million for the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) grant program, which is one of the GMNP’s priorities. The bill failed by one vote, with only one Republican — Sen. Carla Nelson of Rochester — voting in favor of it. The Senate Republicans offered an alternative bonding bill that would have funded more than $900 million in projects, but that bill only garnered 18 votes.
The House announced earlier in the session that they were planning for a $600 million bonding bill, but they have yet to release an actual bill. After the Senate bill failed, Speaker Kurt Daudt made public comments that seemed to indicate that there were not enough votes in the House for a $600 million bill and that the Senate Republican alternative seemed to be a more reasonable compromise. At the press conference this morning, House Republicans indicated that they will release a bill sometime next week.
Reach out to you legislators – The session is almost over, which means next week is expected to be very busy for legislators and advocates alike. Now is the time to reach out to your legislators and encourage them to compromise and pass legislation this session that will help economic development in Greater Minnesota!