Budget conference committee agrees on more areas of the budget

While no article of the budget bill is final yet, last night the House and Senate made significant progress towards a final bill. Recommendations from the working groups – including spending increases and cuts – were adopted for most budget areas. Here are some highlights (e-mail me: katherine@mncn.org if you want a copy of the detailed spreadsheet or bill for a particular budget area):

Higher Education:

  • MnSCU would be cut by about $6.6 million each year (although there are some small increases to specific programs that slightly offset the reduction). MnSCU told the working group it would not increase tuition above already planned increases.
  • U of M system would be cut by $5.2 million in FY 2008 and FY 2009, then $7.7 million per year in next biennium. The Board of Regents still has to vote on final tuition hikes for the year.
  • They would cut Governor’s Achieve program by $5.5 million in FY 2009 (leaving $1.5 million) – which is a smaller reduction than what the House & Senate had originally proposed. Rep. Rukavina (chair of the House higher education committee) said it was a goodwill gesture to the Governor.

Agriculture, Rural Economies & Veterans Affairs

  • A small net increase in funding for the Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of Military Affairs.
  • They would increase funding for some services for veterans at the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, paying for it by utilizing a surplus in the GI bill appropriation.

Public Safety:

  • In general, 1% cuts to the operating budgets of various court systems (i.e. supreme court, court of appeals, district courts).
  • No reductions to crime victims services.

Environment, Natural Resources & Energy:

  • Most of the action in this area is on the revenue side: $20.5 million in new money in FY 2009 from a repeal of the mutual fund registration fee cap and more than $17 million transferred from various special funds to the general fund.

Economic Development:

  • Once again, the bulk of the action in this budget area comes from transfers from special funds to the general fund. The committee adopted the House & Senate recommendation to transfer $8 million out of the Workforce Development Fund and $10 million from the Workers Compensation Special Fund. They also cancel a $2 million appropriation to the Jobs Skills Partnership. 

State Government:

  • 3% reductions to most agency operating budgets, (i.e. legislature, governor, attorney general, secretary of state, Dept. of Administration).
  • They agree to raise $15 million in revenues by increasing tax compliance audits by the Dept. of Revenue and another $10 million by matching bank data to track down delinquent taxpayers.

Transportation:

  • Not much here, as the Legislature already passed their transportation bill into law earlier this session. Essentially general fund spending is held constant.
  • They raise $10.2 million in FY 2009 by increasing the motor vehicle transfer fee from $10 to $20.

Today, the conference committee is going through the Health & Human Services budget area, and will also consider unresolved areas of disagreement and amendments to the budget bill.

-Katherine Blauvelt

About Katherine Blauvelt

Katherine Blauvelt served as the Minnesota Budget Project’s policy analyst from 2007 to 2009.
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