A fiscal note fiasco in the making

Right now, things are popping at the legislature as House and Senate committees are churning out omnibus budget bills. And it looks like every budget division will meet today’s (Thursday’s) deadline for passing out their omnibus bills…all but health and human services.

It’s not for lack of will. Senator Berglin and Representative Huntley, the chairs of the Senate and House Health and Human Services committees, have been anxiously waiting to start assembling their omnibus budget bills. But in order to do so, they need to know exactly how much each component of the bill will save the state or cost the state…because each of those components adds up to whether or not the committee has met its target. Those cost estimates come from fiscal notes prepared by the appropriate state agency in conjunction with Minnesota Management and Budget. Assembling the HHS budget bill could require more than a hundred different fiscal notes.

This year, those fiscal notes have been slow in coming. And there are probably legitimate reasons for the delays. For example, interactions with the federal stimulus bill has made the fiscal calculations significantly more complicated. However, the delays also have very real consequences for the ability of the legislature to finish their work on time.

At this point, the House and Senate committees have already missed the April 16th deadline. In fact, they haven’t even started to publicly present their omnibus bills. There aren’t even any hearings scheduled yet. At this rate, it would be a miracle for these bills to meet the deadline to pass out of the House and Senate Finance committees by next Wednesday (April 22nd).

As Senator Berglin pointed out in a hearing today (Thursday), all these delays mean there will be less time for the House, Senate and Governor to negotiate a compromise. And then remember, it’s very likely that any changes they negotiate will require more fiscal notes.

And that’s how we could end up with a fiscal note fiasco.

But we haven’t reached a crisis yet. So let’s hope the fiscal notes start flowing so HHS can start moving.

-Christina Wessel

About Christina Wessel

Christina served as the Minnesota Budget Project's deputy director until January 2014.
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