Friday, February 12, 2010

Bonding bill advances, Office of the Chancellor report out, Governor's State-of-the-State, Input sought

Legislative Update
February 12, 2010

Bonding bill on track for conference committee next week

A great deal of bonding activity occurred this week in both the House and Senate. The Senate took up the omnibus bonding bill on the floor earlier in the week, and after about four hours of debate, passed the bill by a 52-14 vote. The bill, SF 2360, was laid on the table until the House passes its version of the bonding bill. Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said the bill spends money the state does not have. However, proponents of the legislation spoke about the importance of getting the bill done soon in order to put people to work and take advantage of low interest rates. Chair of the Senate Capital Investment committee, Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said now is the time to bond and build.

The House is scheduled to take up the bill on the floor Monday since it has cleared the appropriate committees this week. The bill started in the Capital Investment committee Tuesday. Committee members passed the bill on a split voice vote after amending it. The bill headed next to the Finance committee, where it also passed on a split voice vote. The last stop was the Ways and Means committee Thursday afternoon, where it passed and was sent to the floor. The bill was amended along the way; however, the projects for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system in both bills remain the same.

In a letter to Capital Investment chairs Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, and Sen. Langseth, Gov. Tim Pawlenty called the bills "unaffordable, irresponsible and filled with local projects," and threatened to veto the entire bill, rather than line-item veto projects he does not support. The governor’s bonding recommendation is approximately $300 million under the Senate and House bills.

An updated 2010 Capital Investment spreadsheet comparing the bills and the governor’s recommendation can be found here. The numbers on the spreadsheet do not include user financing, but rather illustrate the state share for each project.

Auditors office releases report on the Office of the Chancellor

The Office of the Legislative Auditor released its report on the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system office early this week, and the evaluation concluded that it is reasonable for the system to have a sizable system office to perform various governance, oversight and support functions. However, it was recommended that system leaders consider changes in organization, staffing and oversight for certain system office activities. The report may be viewed here.

Governor addresses state’s budget situation

Gov. Pawlenty delivered his final State of the State address this week, where he offered advice to legislators running for governor, including, “Don’t kiss an eelpout on the lips, even if the locals say it’s for good luck.” He urged the Legislature to pass his jobs creation bill, which has six parts: a 20 percent reduction in the corporate tax rate; a 20 percent exclusion from taxation for small businesses; an angel investment tax credit; a supercharged research and development tax credit; a capital gains exclusion for qualified investments; and incentives for companies to invest in Minnesota small businesses. Pawlenty also proposed a constitutional amendment that would require future spending to not exceed current revenues in an effort to reduce government spending.

Related to education, he said that the most important school-related factor in determining how a student will perform is the quality and preparedness of the teachers. He asked teacher unions to pass the Teaching Transformation Act, which he said will dramatically improve teacher quality, training and accountability for results.

The governor also said he will release his budget recommendations Monday to resolve the $1.2 billion budget deficit for the current biennium. He said they will include painful spending reductions, but he said he will protect programs for the military, veterans, core public safety functions and K-12 classrooms. The House Ways and Means and Finance committees are scheduled to hear the governor’s supplemental budget Monday evening.

So what will the governor’s budget recommendation mean to the system? The governor has already unallotted $50 million from the system’s fiscal year 2011 state appropriation. Because the state is receiving stabilization funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or ARRA, a maintenance of effort must be maintained to retain the federal funds. That means the state must maintain the fiscal year 2006 level of funding to higher education, which includes the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota. For higher education, an additional reduction of up to $46.6 million could occur to help solve the $1.2 billion deficit. Therefore, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities could see another $10.5 million to $23 million or even more cut from the budget. The governor’s supplemental budget recommendation is the first step in this process.

Government input being sought

A bipartisan House caucus has created a citizen comment line and Web site to seek ideas on how government can deliver services more efficiently given the $1.2 billion budget deficit the state is facing this biennium and the $5.4 billion deficit projected for the next biennium. Once ideas are submitted, the most promising will be rolled into a “Citizen Redesign Bill.” Those whose ideas are selected will have the opportunity to testify before committee. Chairman of the Property and Local Sales Tax Division Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said, “To maintain Minnesota's greatness into the future we need to do things differently. We need to look at every spending area of the budget and come up with reform and redesign ideas that will improve the quality of services or increase results while lowering costs for residents. This will take bold and innovative ideas.”

The redesign caucus is set to meet throughout the session. The first hearing is scheduled for Feb. 16. The Web site can be accessed here.

Sen. Franken to hold open house in St. Paul

From the Office of Sen. Al Franken:

Please join Sen. Al Franken, his wife Franni and his staff for an open house in his new St. Paul office. The office is located on St. Paul's West Side in the Drake Building.

The open house will be a chance for the public to see the new office, meet his Minnesota staff, and learn about the various services that the office provides to Minnesotans. Hope to see you there!

WHAT: Open House in the Office of Senator Al Franken
WHEN: Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 - 3:00pm - 7:00pm
WHERE: 60 Plato Blvd. East, Suite 220, St. Paul, MN 55107
WHO: All are welcome
CONTACT: (651) 221-1016 or

Here's What's Happening at the Capitol:

This schedule shows all meetings that we are aware of at the time of publication that may have an impact on the system. This schedule may change. Please watch the House and Senate schedules posted on the Legislative web site.

Monday, February 15

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

1:00 PM
House in Session
Bonding bill

6:30 PM *Note time change*
House Ways & Means and Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Loren Solberg and Rep Lyndon Carlson
Agenda: Governor’s supplemental budget

Tuesday, February 16

8:30 AM
House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Carlos Mariani
Agenda: Lessons learned on high school assessment and accountability
Dirk Mattson, Director, Assessments and Testing, Minnesota Department of Education
Kent Pekel, Director, College Readiness Consortium, University of Minnesota

10:30 AM
House Bioscience and Workforce Development Policy and Oversight Division
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tim Mahoney
Agenda: Presentation by the Minnesota Science and Technology Economic
Development Project Committee
Presentation of DEED Uniform Program Accountability Measures

12:30 PM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandra L. Pappas
Office of Higher Education:
1. State grant short fall and solution
2. Achieve shortfall and solution
3. Preliminary Minnesota Postsecondary Enrollment Census for Fall 2009
4. Minnesota's 2008 High School Graduates Enrolled in College at Record Rates
Governor's Budget

1:00 PM
House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tom Rukavina
Agenda: Economic Development and Job Creation
1. Natural Resources Research Institute - Michael Lalich, director
Green energy development and other innovative natural resources strategies
2. Status and needs of the Minnesota manufacturing sector
Central Minnesota Maufacturers Association - Les Engel, president

7:00 PM
Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen Betzold
Agenda: One-person/small group legislation:
SF1374/HF1569 - PERA-P&F; Joint and survivor annuity for the divorced spouse of a deceased retiree who elected a single life annuity.
SFXX/HF2550 - MSRS/MnSCU/TRA; Permitting the repayment of certain member contribution refunds; authorizing a second chance option to elect TRA retirement plan benefit coverage; mandating certain contributions.
SFXX/HFXX - PERA; Authorizing a late disability benefit application in certain cases.
SFXX/HFXX - SPTRFA; Service credit purchase for uncredited prior teaching service
SFXX/HFXX - PERA-P&F; Revise Social Security leveling option to single-life annuity.
SFXX/HFXX - PERA; Purchase of prior service credit for a period of omitted member deductions for certain Inver Grove Heights public school employees.
SFXX/HFXX - TRA; Alternative retirement annuity computation for former Red Lake Senior High School principal.

Wednesday, February 17

8:30 AM
House K-12 Education Policy and Oversight
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Carlos Mariani
Agenda: HF664 (Welti) Mental health model curriculum created.
HF2705 (Peterson) High school student transition plan implemented for successful pursuit of postsecondary education and employment, and money appropriated.
HF2814 (Swails) Pupil transportation provisions modified, certain lift buses included in category of revenue authorized reimbursement, and contracted transportation costs included as a method for allocating pupil transportation costs.

10:30 AM
House Bioscience and Workforce Development
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tim Mahoney
Agenda: Office of the Legislative Auditor report: Workforce Programs

12:30 PM
Senate Business, Industry and Jobs
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. James P. Metzen
Agenda: Unemployment Trust Fund Update
Legislative Auditor's Report: Workforce Programs

Thursday, February 18

10:30 AM
House in Session

1:00 PM
House Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy and Finance Division
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Tom Rukavina
Agenda: Fiscal condition of state financial aid programs
David Metzen, Director of the Office of Higher Education

Thursday, February 25

12:30 PM
Senate Higher Education Budget and Policy Division
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Sandy Pappas
Agenda: OLA evaluation report, MnSCU System Office