Friday, March 11, 2011

Budget targets out; Tuition freeze bill heard; Redesign state government; Congress crafts budget

Legislative Update
March 11, 2011

Legislative leaders propose reductions of 16 percent to higher education

Republican leadership announced the budget targets this week. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said government needs to live within their means. She said leadership implemented aggressive budget deadlines, and now the targets are turned over to committee chairs who will work to meet the March 25 deadline.

Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said, "We're building a budget on what is currently in Minnesota's checking account." Michel said this is a framework that doesn't include any details. "That's what the committee process is for," he said.

For higher education, the budget target is about a 16 percent reduction, which brings the proposed spending level for all of higher education to $2.505 billion. Gov. Dayton's budget proposal for higher education puts the fiscal year 2012-13 spending at $2.745 billion, a difference of $240 million.

We now turn our attention to the higher education committees in the Senate and House to see how they recommend spreading the cut. Republican leaders said today that the finance committees will be working overtime to put together the budget bills. The Senate Higher Education committee has said they expect to pass a budget bill March 23, and the House Higher Education committee has indicated discussion of a budget bill in committee on March 22. Senate Finance Chair Claire Robling, R-Jordan, said, "This earlier deadline will allow us to get done on time, and I think you are going to see that."

In addition to the state government cuts, the House’s budget plan includes cuts of $300 million in income taxes for low and middle class Minnesotans, and the Senate plan includes $200 million in tax cuts for businesses.

Gov. Mark Dayton’s spokesperson Katharine Tinucci said the governor believes a budget is a reflection of values and priorities, and these cuts will hurt school children, taxpayers, businesses and seniors. House Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, described the dilemma facing lawmakers and the governor, "We have very diverse beliefs about what is best for the state. I’m not sure how we are going to resolve it."

Tuition freeze bill receives second hearing

The bill that freezes tuition for the 2012-2013 biennium at the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota, was heard in the House Higher Education Policy and Finance committee this week. The bill was heard previously in the Senate Higher Education committee. HF 856, introduced by Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, also holds tuition increases to the annual percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index, or CPI, for every year thereafter. Swedzinski said the bill provides long-term tuition guidance for students and their families.

Travis Johnson, President of the Minnesota State College Student Association, or MSCSA, said his organization does not support a tuition freeze, but rather a tuition cap, and said he would like to see a predictability measure in place going forward. Johnson said tuition increases should be limited to ensure a college education remains affordable.

Russ Stanton, Director of Government Relations with the Inter Faculty Organization, or IFO, testified against the bill and said the IFO advocates for low tuition. Stanton said the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system is a highly efficient system and tuition rates are among the lowest in the state. He said the IFO does not like the idea of setting tuition rates in the public arena, but rather should be left up to the Board of Trustees.

Dawn Reimer, Chief Finance and Facilities Officer at North Hennepin Community explained to committee members that a tuition freeze will have a significant impact on the college's students and employees. Reimer said students come to the colleges and universities in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system because of the system's high quality instructors, innovative programs, and state-of-the-art facilities, labs and technology. With a tuition freeze and cuts to state appropriations, Reimer said growth in innovations and new programs at the college will be limited, physical improvements will be stalled, and quality education will be compromised.

Remier told committee members that the Board of Trustees currently makes final tuition decisions based on data provided by the colleges and universities, and the Board requires each institution to consult with its students concerning its tuition and fee proposals. Remier said at North Hennepin Community College, Budget Task Force meetings are held with employees and students to work on the budget; and ensures budget cuts, operating efficiencies and other revenues are incorporated into the budget before tuition rates are determined.

As the committee begins to craft its omnibus bill, this bill was laid over for consideration.

Legislation to redesign state government receive hearings

Multiple bills, with the intent to redesign state government, have been making their way through committee. As lawmakers work to reduce the $5 billion budget deficit, many agree there is a need for change in the area of state government, but what that change will look like is still being debated.

The recently released budget target for state government in the House is a 34 percent reduction, and the Senate proposes reducing state government 53 percent. The impact of this is unclear as the committees work to put together a spending bill. Some of the proposals include; cutting the state workforce, salary freezes, consolidating backroom office functions, establishing a performance pay system, public and private sector salary comparisons, a zero-based budgeting process, early retirement programs, and reducing the number of state agencies.

At a press conference earlier this week, Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said the state is going to have to look at doing things differently, because legislators can no longer tax or cut their way out of this problem. Many of the redesign bills making their way through the process and heard this week have been sponsored by Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, who said legislators and state workers need to embrace the need for a leaner, more efficient state government.

Some legislators however, are challenging some of the more controversial plans. During the House State Government Finance committee hearing this week, Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, said he has been hearing Minnesota has the leanest workforce, yet bills are being introduced that include pay cuts, and outsourcing. Downey said, "This is about empowering people and valuing people; not the structures, not the organization, not the processes that we’ve locked them into."

All eyes are on Washington as March 18 draws near

With Congress passing a continuing resolution last week to fund the federal government at fiscal 2010 levels until March 18, the U.S. House and Senate work to pass a bill before next Friday. Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, introduced a continuing resolution that maintains funding for many higher education programs at fiscal year 2010 levels. You may recall the House passed legislation that cuts $61 billion in spending, including higher education.

Today, House Republicans released a three-week continuing resolution to keep government operating that cuts $6 billion in spending. In order to avoid a government shutdown, a short-term funding bill is almost unavoidable, especially with negotiations between the House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House at a stalemate. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said, "This is simply an extension to give negotiators more time." The House bill is expected to be voted on Tuesday.

Public policy agenda for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities, or AASCU, has released their legislative priorities and positions on higher education issues at the federal and state levels. AASCU has said their advocacy efforts in 2011 will focus on the policy principle of "Delivering America’s Promise" in four policy areas including; affordability, access and attainment, accountability, and competitiveness. To learn more about the four areas of AASCU’s public policy agenda, please go here.

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 Legislature web site.

Monday, March 14

10:15 AM
House Ways and Means
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Mary Liz Holberg
Agenda: Adopt budget targets

11:00 AM
Senate in Session

12:30 PM
House Education Finance
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Pat Garofalo
Agenda: HF783 (Garofalo) Number of public school pupils covered by the permanent fund endowment apportionment expanded.
HF879 (Erickson) Annual evaluations for principals established, and a group of experts and stakeholders convened to recommend a performance-based system model for these evaluations.
HF360 (Peterson) School district requirement clarified that a school district is not required to provide educational services to students without disabilities from other states.

1:00 PM
Senate Local Government and Elections
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Ray Vandeveer
S.F. 509-Limmer: Voter photo identification requirement; picture identification issuance provisions; provisional balloting procedure establishment; electronic polling place roster use requirement; recount procedure enacting; appropriating money.
S.F. 479-Howe: Voter photo identification and issuance requirement; picture identification and issuance at no charge; provisional balloting procedure establishment.

1:00 PM
Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans
Room: 123 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Mike Parry
S.F. 208-Hann: Teacher employment contracts negotiating process establishment.
S.F. 650-Gazelka: Compulsive gambling appropriation.
S.F. 739-Lillie: Deputy commissioner and assistant commissioner positions reduction.
S.F. 146-Chamberlain: Priority-based budgeting process creation and state agencies sunset process establishment.

3:00 PM
Senate Higher Education
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Michelle L. Fischbach
S.F. 698-Magnus: University of Minnesota (U of M) agriculture experiment station and extension service appropriation
Presentation on the Agricultural Special by the University of Minnesota
S.F. 342-Bakk: Cook county higher education board educational programs and academic support services appropriation.

3:00 PM
Senate Education
Room 15 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Gen Olson
S.F. 390-Nelson: Americorps Innovation Act.
S.F. 636-Olson, G.: Teacher licensure, evaluations, and tenure provisions modifications.

3:00 PM
House in Session

5:30 PM
House Education Reform
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Sondra Erickson
HF945 (Petersen) Teacher licensure, evaluations, and tenure modified.
HF947 (Erickson) Alternative teacher pay system modified.

Tuesday, March 15

8:15 AM
House Education Reform
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Sondra Erickson
HF638 (Myhra) School grading system created, school recognition program created, school report cards modified, rulemaking authorized, and report required.
HF558 (Downey) Graduation-Required Assessment for Diploma mathematics exception removed.
HF329 (Bills) Public school employees prohibited from using public funds and resources to advocate to pass, elect, or defeat a political candidate, ballot question, or pending legislation.

10:30 AM
Senate Jobs and Economic Growth
Room: 107 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Geoff Michel
S.F. 428-Sieben: Boiler inspector provisions modifications.
S.F. 437-Dahms: Minnesota inventors congress grants appropriation.
S.F. 501-Nelson: BioBusiness Alliance appropriation.
S.F. 708-Pederson: Twin Cities RISE! job training programs appropriation; job training and retention grant requirements modifications.
S.F. 486-Tomassoni: Conservation Corps Minnesota statewide youth job skills development and training program grant appropriation.
S.F. 300-Bonoff: Minnesota science and technology program.

12:30 PM
House Higher Education Policy and Finance
Room: Basement State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bud Nornes
HF900 (Abeler) Board of Trustees of MnSCU required to implement a policy on credit transfers relating to the Anoka STEP program, and report to the legislature required.
HF243 (Anderson) Optional student fees increase vote required.
HF862 (Benson) University of Minnesota and Mayo Foundation Partnership money appropriated.
HF849 (Nornes) College and university mandates eliminated

12:30 PM
House Jobs and Economic Development Finance
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Bob Gunther
HF645 (Mullery) Minority population grant program provided for collaborative activities to reduce unemployment, and money appropriated.
HF995 (McFarlane) Womenventure funding provided for business development programs, and money appropriated.
HF983 (Gunther) Enterprise Minnesota, Inc. funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF893 (Gunther) Vinland Center for rehabilitation services funding provided, and money appropriated.
HF693 (McFarlane) Minority business development programs money appropriated.

2:30 PM
House Capital Investment
Room: 10 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Larry Howes
Agenda: HFXXXX (Howes) A bill for an act relating to capital investment; canceling appropriations and reducing the corresponding bond sale authorizations.

Wednesday, March 16

8:00 AM
House State Government Finance
Room: 200 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Morrie Lanning
Agenda: HF2 (Banaian) Zero-based budgeting required, and sunset advisory commission and sunset process established for state agencies.
Minnesota House of Representatives budget overview
General Fund Budget overviews by:
Teachers Retirement Association (TRA)
Minnesota State Retirement System (MSRS)
Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA)
Governor’s Office budget overview

1:00 PM
Senate Local Government and Elections
Room: 112 Capitol
Chair: Sen. Ray Vandeveer
S.F. 509-Limmer: Voter photo identification requirement; picture identification issuance provisions; provisional balloting procedure establishment; electronic polling place roster use requirement; recount procedure enacting; appropriating money.
S.F. 479-Howe: Voter photo identification and issuance requirement; picture identification and issuance at no charge; provisional balloting procedure establishment.

Thursday, March 17

10:15 AM
House Government Operations and Elections Committee
Room: 5 State Office Building
Chair: Rep. Joyce Peppin
HF1041 (Mack) State employee suggestion system for making state government less costly or more efficient established.
HF962 (Howes) Municipal tobacco license suspensions for sales to minors limited upon compliance with requirements.
HF681 (Downey) Minnesota pay for performance pilot program established, funding provided, bonds issued, and money appropriated.