Session Daily: Conferees wrap up $283 million supplemental budget

Session Daily: Conferees wrap up $283 million supplemental budget

 

The House and Senate early Friday morning wrapped up negotiations on the supplemental budget bill. 

Sponsored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson Sr. (DFL-Crystal) and Sen. Richard Cohen(DFL-St. Paul), HF3172 would distribute $283 million in surplus General Fund money for programs ranging from higher education to corrections.

The conference report was adopted at 2 a.m. after a long day and week of negotiations.

The committee on Monday received spending targets for the various funding categories. With targets in hand, the committee adopted several articles throughout the week and convened Thursday morning with two remaining pieces left to resolve: E-12 education and agriculture and environment. 

 The education agreement advanced by the committee would spend $54 million in the current biennium from the General Fund. The deal features a compromise that would increase the per-pupil funding formula by $25. The formula increase, which would be permanent, would cost $23.4 million in fiscal year 2015 and $26.3 million in each of the out years. The House had initially budgeted a $54 million formula increase while the Senate’s position heading into conference didn’t include an increase.

Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL-Dilworth) said increased funding will provide school districts with the “flexibility they need to get to the world’s best workforce.”

When the committee turned to agriculture and environment, a couple of differences between the House and Senate were unresolved and, as a result, $1.95 million of its $12 million target was still up for grabs.

Moreover, Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson testified that he had three concerns about the bill. Lacking, he said, was $350,000 in the department’s base for retail food handler inspections in St. Paul, $310,000 for the Board of Animal Health for a new inspection program for dog and cat breeders and $200,000 for research into porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.

The committee recessed and lawmakers haggled over their differences well into the night before reconvening. The committee later in the evening adopted the administration’s three requests.

A controversy then ensued over the Toxic Free Kids Act, which would require companies to report to the state if they sell products that contain certain toxic chemicals as determined by the Department of Health. Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) spoke in favor of the proposal, stating the state “can’t give children the best education we can if we don’t protect their developing brains.”

Cohen noted the proposal would have a “domino effect” in the larger end-of-session negotiations to the point that House Republicans wouldn’t support the bonding bill on the House Floor if it advanced. No motion was made to add the Toxic Free Kids Act to the bill.

 By Charley Shaw, Session Daily

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