Finance takes center stage

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WIth the first deadline behind them, this week will see lawmakers turn more and more away from policy matters and toward financial items, specifically how to tackle the $1 billion deficit that remains for the current state budget cycle.

In the House of Representatives this week, a vote could come as early as Monday on HF 2624, a bill from Rep. Jean Wagenius, DFL-Minneapolis, that spends the environment and natural resources trust fund dollars from Minnesota Lottery proceeds.

House Taxes Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, on Monday will introduce her jobs bill, based around providing tax credits to small businesses who hire new employees.

Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, on Tuesday will review in his Health Care and Human Services Finance Division HF 2614, the compromise that preserves the General Assistance Medical Care program this year and establishes an intensive care management program for enrollees going forward. Look for that bill to come to the floor for a vote this week if the compromise holds.

The Senate on Monday is reviewing in the Taxes Committee SF 3223, a big omnibus budget bill from Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, that makes cuts to higher education, environment and natural resources, energy, agriculture, veterans affairs, transportation, economic development, public safety, judiciary and state government financing to reduce the deficit.

Expect that bill to come up for a vote before the Easter/Passover break set for the end of the month. And notice what items are missing from the bill — K-12 education and health and human services — more than 50 percent of the state’s budget.

The GAMC fix from Sen. Linda Berglin, DFL-Minneapolis, will also come to the Senate Finance Committee in the form of SF 460 on Monday, and could end up on the Senate floor before the end of the week.

And of course, keep an eye out for Gov. Tim Pawlenty to sign or veto HF 2700, the bonding bill by midnight Monday.  A letter signed by 44 of 47 House Republicans urged Pawlenty to line-time veto all but $250 million of the $1 billion bill, and two others urged him to veto the entire thing. Minnesota Public Radio has links to the letters here and here. [EDITOR’S NOTE: Pawlenty line-item vetoed $320 million of the $1 billion bonding bill. See MinnPost report here.]