Rotunda Ramblings: Gov. Dayton’s Budget Proposal Only Preliminary

A memo from House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), set the committee deadlines for the 2015 session:

  • March 20, committees must act favorably on bills in the house of origin;
  • March 27, committees must act favorably on bills, or companion bills, that met the first deadline in the other house; and
  • April 24, committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

By law, legislators must adjourn this session by May 18.

Additionally, legislative leaders have agreed to a Passover/Easter break from March 28 through noon, April 7. However, committees may begin meeting at 8 a.m. April 7.

Governor Dayton releases budget

Gov. Mark Dayton has proposed a $42 billion, two-year budget heavily focused on Minnesota’s youngest residents.

Unveiled last week, Dayton’s budget framework would spend most of the state’s projected $1 billion surplus on program areas like early childhood education and child health, and would provide nearly $100 million in child care assistance tax credits to Minnesota families.

The plan would increase state spending by roughly $2.5 billion more in 2016-2017 over the current biennium and leave $35 million of the projected surplus unspent. There were no big plans or increased spending for agriculture. However the Governor did include funds for increasing the water quality effort and added some increased fees to be levied on various parts of agriculture. The following are some of those proposals from his budget documents:

The Governor recommends a 9-cent per ton increase in the fertilizer inspection fee to increase oversight for bulk liquid and dry fertilizer, storage inspection, bulk fertilizer quality assurance and anhydrous ammonia (AA) safety outreach . This is a 7.8 percent increase to the fertilizer budget and a 0.1 percent increase to the PFMD division budget as a whole.

 The Governor recommends $8.46 million in FY 2016 and $8.46 million in FY 2017 from the Clean Water Fund to continue the Department of Agriculture’s work to improve water quality.

This recommendation includes the following components:

  1. Monitoring for Pesticides in Surface Water and Groundwater Program ($700,000): Monitoring for pesticides and pesticide degradates in surface water and groundwater provides data to assess pesticide use practices.
  2. Nitrate in Groundwater ($5.3 million): By developing and promoting nitrogen fertilizer BMPs and promoting vegetative cover invulnerable areas, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) and local partners work to minimize environmental risk from agricultural nitrogen use and support a variety of related activities that identify potential sources of nitrate contamination and evaluate and implement practices to reduce nitrate in groundwater. The MDA’s efforts include: pass through funding to local governments to develop and implement locally-led prevention and/or mitigation projects; accelerated private well testing in groundwater sensitive agricultural townships; working with local government units and farmers to improve water quality in areas where groundwater is adversely impacted; and, working with the University of Minnesota to refine and demonstrate Nitrogen fertilizer BMPs to protect groundwater. Working in partnerships with local government units, the MDA plans to test 70,000 privatewells, within approximately 250 townships statewide, over the next six years. MDA received $5 million for this activity in the FY2014-15 biennium.
  3. Academic Research and Evaluation ($2.1 million): The MDA supports collaborative research projects working directly with state and local government units to disseminate information and to ensure that scientific data gets in the hands of decision-makers and the end-user.

 There are a number of other fee increases that are applied to the food inspection and distribution system.

 The next revision to budget recommendations will come after the revised budget forecast at the end of February, at which time the legislature will act in earnest to create their own budget proposal.