What’s a fiscal note?


In the first of a series of entries looking at the jargon of the Minnesota Legislature, let’s take a look at what a fiscal note is and the role it plays in shaping legislation.

According to the House Fiscal Analysis Department, a fiscal note is what puts a price tag on a bill.

More from CAPITOL REPORT: Pulling back the curtain on the legislature to “share what I know and give people a somewhat insider’s view of how decisions are actually made inside that building and how normal citizens can have the best chance of influencing those decisions.”

A committee chairman or chairwoman in the House of Representatives or Senate can request a fiscal note for a bill coming before their committee before a hearing.

The bill’s author provides it to Minnesota Management and Budget, the fiscal arm of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s administration. In consultation with the appropriate state agency, they put a price tag on the bill and send it to the committee chairman.

A fiscal note is considered advice to the Legislature and is not binding. However, it can have a big impact on the bill’s fate. If MMB puts a big price tag on the bill, it can make it more difficult to get support for it.

Likewise, if the bill in question is a tax bill, the fiscal note estimates how much money the tax change would yield or cost in revenue.

In 2009, more than 1,000 fiscal notes were generated on proposed bills during the legislative session.

You can look to see how much a particular bill might cost yourself using MMB’s fiscal note search tool.