Legislative work continues

It’s deadline week at the State Capitol, meaning all major legislation must have progressed through relevant policy committees in either the House or the Senate by Friday in order to be considered alive. Bills that have not met those criteria can no longer be considered without special action.

Next Friday is the second deadline, when bills must be through policy committees in both the House and Senate to remain viable. The following Friday is the third and final deadline, at which point legislation needs to have been reviewed by the Finance or Tax Committees and moving onto the full bodies for final votes.

Of course, there’s a lot more work left to be done. Bills may be through committee, but the full House and Senate need to vote on the measures. Then, conference committees will work out differences between similar bills before they are sent to Governor Mark Dayton for final approval. The month of April – and possibly May, if we need it – will be reserved for that work.

One item that may be on our agenda during these final weeks is Gov. Dayton’s supplemental budget. Lawmakers completed a budget last year, but governors typically submit a revised plan in the second year of a biennium to help fund a few needed priorities. This year, Gov. Dayton has proposed investments in veterans, police officers, job creation and health care.

Included in his budget are $35 million for a Jobs Now Tax Credit, offered to employers who hire unemployed Minnesotans, veterans or recent college graduates; about $2 million for expansion of the Minnesota GI Bill, County Veterans Service Officers and honor guard services; $515,000 to help state and local police departments purchase bulletproof vests; about $16 million to restore the cut to Personal Care Attendants that care for sick and disabled residents, to enhance medical education research, and to provide emergency services such as chemotherapy to the sickest Minnesotans; and $4 million annually to control aquatic invasive species and keep Minnesota’s waters safe and viable.

The Governor’s budget would close tax loopholes for corporations – those that allow big business to shelter revenue in overseas accounts to avoid taxation – in order to collect revenue to pay for these priorities. It’s a balanced plan that doesn’t borrow money to invest in important priorities. Instead, it makes common-sense changes that will even out the tax burden between big businesses and the middle class, meanwhile raising enough revenue to support needed investments in Minnesota.

It’s unclear at this point whether the governor’s ideas will receive a hearing in the Senate or the House. I’m hopeful that they do. There are some very real needs that could be addressed by enacting his supplemental budget, and all we need to do is get rid of an unfair tax scheme that should have been corrected years ago. This is the kind of thoughtful, responsible budgeting that, frankly, should be a lot more common at the State Capitol.

If you have any questions or concerns, you may contact me any time at: sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.

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Senator Dan Sparks
Dan Sparks represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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