MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE: Funding bills pass without full funding
ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators rushed through bills funding a bulk of the state budget today, but without fully paying. The Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty have not agreed on how to fund part of the budget, le...
ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators rushed through bills funding a bulk of the state budget today, but without fully paying.
The Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty have not agreed on how to fund part of the budget, leaving tax and spending questions in the 2009 legislative session's final five days.
Senators and representatives worked into tonight approving funding for education, agriculture, veterans, public works and other state programs, often with little or no debate. The bills were compromises worked out by House and Senate negotiators after both chambers passed their own budget bills last month and earlier this month.
Meanwhile, lawmakers waited to see if Pawlenty would sign a massive health and human services spending measure they sent to him earlier in the week.
Pawlenty said that legislative spending would be $34 billion under the bills being passed while revenues would be just $31 billion.
"Before we commit the state to write checks from the public checkbook, I need to know how you intend to cover the $3 billion hole in your plan," Pawlenty wrote to legislative leaders.
The governor long has opposed higher state taxes.
Two of the Legislature's proposals to plug the state deficit have been sidetracked: Pawlenty vetoed a $1 billion tax increase legislators sent him and legislators opted against an earlier plan to delay nearly $1.8 billion in state payments to schools.
Legislative leaders have not presented a new revenue-raising plan.
The governor plans to sign a bill funding agriculture and veterans programs, Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said, but he made no promises about other bills that passed today.
Pawlenty and legislative leaders did not meet today to discuss their differences. The Legislature must adjourn its regular session Monday, with the main job writing the two-year budget.
Lawmakers pushed through a $343 million public works spending package.
The House voted 109-25 for the bill that uses state-borrowed funds for construction ranging from college building renovations to flood-prevention projects. The Senate followed 59-8.
The package includes about $54 million for flood prevention projects in communities hit by flooding in past years and this spring -- including Breckenridge, Moorhead and Oakport Township. Another $18 million is included for flood recovery costs.
Pawlenty and Moorhead-area legislators agreed to the flood spending, and it appears to be safe from a Pawlenty veto.
However, McClung said, the governor will look over the bill carefully, and hinted that some projects will be vetoed.
Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said the bill he sponsored will produce thousands of jobs throughout the state.
About 40 percent of public works funding would go to repair state college and university buildings.
A bill funding agriculture and military veterans' programs won unanimous backing in the House and a 62-5 Senate vote.
Lead House negotiator Rep. Al Juhnke, DFL-Willmar, said Agriculture Department funding will be cut 8.4 percent during the next two-year budget period, but spending for the Veterans Affairs and Military Affairs departments increases 6.1 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively.
Juhnke said the bill protects core agricultural services, such as food testing and dairy inspections. But state payments to ethanol producers will be slowed down.
n The House voted 88-46 to continue existing spending if lawmakers and Pawlenty do not finish their budget work by July 1, when the new budget begins. Senators approved the bill Tuesday.
n Senators passed 50-16 a compromise energy bill that maintains a moratorium on building nuclear power plants. Senators earlier voted to lift the moratorium, but representatives refused to go along.
n Senators approved 58-8 a compromise bill funding various state programs. While the House wanted to raise money by selling naming rights to many state buildings, that was not included in the final bill.