The House and Senate have revived the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy to create a common space to work out big picture legislative issues. So far this session, the Commission has been the prime venue for the legislature to coordinate with the Governor on drawing down federal stimulus dollars. Now the Commission is shifting its focus to coming up with a compromise resolution to the state’s budget deficit.
On Tuesday morning, members of the Commission met with Tom Hanson (Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget) and Jim Schowalter (Assistant Commissioner) to talk about some of the differences between the three budget proposals. The conversation was…well, lively….primarily focusing on which of the budget proposals actually cuts more in spending. You can watch the video or listen to the audio online. One take-away – the House and Senate aren’t very interested in the Governor’s proposal to bond to help solve the budget deficit…that bonding constitutes about $1 billion of the Governor’s solution.
But the most important take-away is that Speaker Kelliher and Senator Pogemiller plan to use the Commission as the venue for having public budget negotiations with the Governor (with Commissioner Hanson acting as Pawlenty’s chief negotiator). The Commission will have frequent public meetings to try to come to an agreement, with the next hearing expected this Thursday. (Remember, conference committees need targets in order to meet their May 7th deadline.) You can watch the Commission’s Web site for meeting notices. Plus, we’ll be there and let you know if these public negotiations actually work.