The first two House files of the 2011 session address the majority party’s top two priorities: the economy and the state budget.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said HF1 and HF2, the symbolically important first two bills of the session, represent initiatives that would help encourage businesses to build and expand in Minnesota.
“These are the things we promised to make Minnesota more competitive,” Zellers said.
HF1, sponsored by Rep. Dan Fabian (R-Roseau), would speed up and streamline the state’s environmental permitting process. Fabian said the state’s cumbersome permitting process is driving businesses to relocate outside Minnesota.
“In my part of the state, jobs go across the Red River to North Dakota,” Fabian said. “I’d like to see those jobs stay either in my district or at least in the state of Minnesota.”
HF2, sponsored by Rep. King Banaian (R-St. Cloud), would require the state to use priority-based budgeting (sometimes called “zero-based budgeting”), and also establish a “sunset review” every 10 years to determine whether agencies should be abolished or reorganized. He said the goal is to examine how the state can best deliver its services rather than just growing agencies’ budgets. (Watch the press conferences.)
Neither bill has a Senate companion.
House DFL leaders reacted skeptically to the proposed measures, saying they would have little short-term impact. They argued a bonding bill would be the quickest, surest way to put Minnesotans to work, and suggested a wage subsidy program similar to one used in the 1980s.
“The problem with regulation reforms is it doesn’t help the 200,000 people who are unemployed,” said Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul).
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) said the proposed “sunset review” process might be of limited use, since many state functions, such as funding schools and prisons, are unlikely to be abolished. He also noted that the proposed legislation could cost money the state doesn’t have.
“They don’t do anything right now to actually solve the $6.2 billion deficit that we’re facing, which is the biggest crisis that the Legislature has to address,” Thissen said.