Final Minnesota legislative bills may be passed in middle of the night
ST. PAUL-Twenty hours after legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton announced "we have a deal" for a $46 billion state budget, lawmakers and the public waited most of the day Tuesday to see what the deal was.The Legislature convened Tuesday afte...
ST. PAUL-Twenty hours after legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton announced "we have a deal" for a $46 billion state budget, lawmakers and the public waited most of the day Tuesday to see what the deal was.
The Legislature convened Tuesday afternoon with the intent of holding hearings for budgets funding public schools, health and human services and transportation, a collection of tax cuts and a package of infrastructure projects. But the first bill wasn't released to the public until shortly before 8 p.m.
The delay was partially due to the time it takes staff to draft and check the bills, many of which are hundreds of pages long. But it also reflects the fact that the "deal" leaders announced shortly before midnight Monday had lots of blanks to be filled in later.
"We're just wrapping up the little final, little $1 million pieces here or there," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday. The remaining bills affect more than $40 billion in taxes and spending.
Under the agreement legislative leaders made with Dayton on Monday, they have to finish passing all the bills by 7 a.m. Wednesday. But with no votes on any bills by 8 p.m. Tuesday, it appeared they might miss that deadline.
That means the bills governing 70 percent of Minnesota's budget will likely be passed in the middle of the night. Lawmakers were gearing up for an all-night marathon of hearings, debates and votes.
The bills include:
• Education: Includes $483 million more for schools, including $371 million to increase the per-pupil funding formula 2 percent each year. It also includes $50 million for a preschool "School Readiness Plus" program that Dayton fought for.
• Transportation: The bill will increase spending on transportation by $300 million. Much of this will go to new road and bridge construction, while some will go to help Metro Transit make up a deficit that could have caused fare hikes or the elimination of bus routes.
• Tax cuts: A $660 million package of tax cuts that gives elderly Minnesotans and Social Security recipients more than $100 million in relief, more than $70 million in breaks for people paying college tuition and loans and gives a property tax break to the proposed Major League Soccer stadium in St. Paul.
• Health and human services: Details of this bill remained unclear Tuesday evening. Republicans were pressing to reduce spending in this $14 billion area of the budget, while Dayton was trying to maintain and increase it.
• Infrastructure: The measure would borrow about $990 million for roads, schools, local water systems and other projects around the state. Specifics were unavailable Tuesday evening.
• State government: Details were sketchy on the Legislature and Dayton's plans for funding of state departments. Republicans had wanted to cut agency funding, while making further demands on the workers in those agencies. Dayton said the cuts were unacceptable. Also unclear Tuesday evening: Whether there will be money in the measure to pay for enhanced government cybersecurity protections.
• Pre-emption: Republicans in the Legislature are planning on passing a bill blocking local governments from enacting labor ordinances. It's a response to paid leave ordinances and possible minimum wage increases in Minneapolis, St. Paul and other cities, but Dayton has promised to veto the bill.
Bill Salisbury, Dave Orrick and Christopher Magan contributed to this report.