Now that we are in the final days of the legislative session, several CGMC members have requested updates on the key bills that include issues that are important to Greater Minnesota communities. Below are updates on the four main bills: taxes, bonding, transportation and supplemental budget. Under state law, the Legislature has until midnight on Sunday to pass bills. That means there is still a lot of work to do in a very short amount of time!

TAX BILL
The tax bill was just released minutes ago and we are currently in the process of analyzing it. The LGA provisions in the bill are very complicated, but it appears to include a $20 million increase in base funding. It also appears that the workforce housing tax credit was left out of the final bill. We will continue to review the bill and will provide you with more information as it becomes available.

Do we think it will it pass by midnight on Sunday?
 It’s likely.

BONDING BILL
Although bonding bills failed to pass in both the House and Senate, a conference committee was created yesterday to compromise on a final bill. The conferees are Representatives Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake), Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent), Bob Vogel (R-Elko New Market) and Alice Hausman (DFL-St. Paul) and Senators LeRoy Stumpf (DFL-Plummer), David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), Dave Senjem (R-Rochester), Katie Sieben (DFL-Newport) and Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis).

The conference committee met this morning to compare the $800M House GOP bill and the $1.5B Senate DFL bill. They have not yet set a dollar amount for the compromised bill, but we expect the final bill will be about $1 billion. While many of our members have individual projects that they hope will be included in the bonding bill, the two biggest statewide priorities for the CGMC are funding for clean water infrastructure programs and the Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program. Good news already came out of the conference committee today in that it adopted some policy changes we are advocating for. First, they adopted language changes we are seeking pertaining to water infrastructure funding through the Public Facilities Authority. Second, they adopted two of the three changes we are seeking regarding the BDPI program: lifting the cap from $1M to $2M and requiring DEED to report to applicants and the Legislature their reasoning when they do not fund a project at 50% of the costs.

One surprise to note in both the House and Senate bonding bills is that there is over $250 million in funding for roads, bridges and highways with a lot of money earmarked for specific projects. This breaks with past practice of not doing earmarks for highways. Over 98% of the earmarks in each bill are for metro area projects related to roads, bridges and highways. We are questioning the appropriateness of this and suggesting they balance the metro earmarks out with Greater Minnesota earmarks or money specifically for Greater Minnesota corridors of commerce projects.

Do we think it will it pass by midnight on Sunday?  It’s likely.

TRANSPORTATION
Despite the transportation bill being all but declared dead a couple days ago, it appears that intense transportation negotiations have been continuing behind closed doors. Who knows if these discussions will yield results, but apparently it’s still too early to pull the plug on hopes for a comprehensive transportation bill this year.

Do we think it will it pass by midnight on Sunday?  It’s still unlikely.

SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET BILL
The supplemental budget bill is a huge piece of legislation that covers a wide array of issues. The top Greater Minnesota priority that could be included in this bill is funding for broadband. Currently, the Senate supports $85M in funding for the broadband program and some positive policy changes that will allow more cities to qualify for grants, while the House supports $40M in funding and some policy changes that could make it even harder for cities to qualify.

A couple of the sticking points that appear to be preventing this bill from moving forward is how much money to put into the Governor’s proposal on racial equity initiatives and pre-K programs.

Do we think it will it pass by midnight on Sunday?  Chances are 50/50 right now.