With approximately $1.2 billion of additional funds in the state coffers, House Republicans answered the question on Friday as to what their intentions are for the use of those funds in their agenda.
The House leadership along with the Ways and Means committee set the “targets” for overall spending and individual spending targets for each Finance committee. Under the rules of the House, a Finance committee may not exceed those established numbers when formulating their supplemental budget bills. The targets either add or subtract from the base number that was appropriated in last years’ established budget for a given finance area. Readjustments may be made as to a given budget or budgets as long as the net effect does not exceed the targets.
The road map they have laid out provides for no net additional state spending as compared to last year’s budget. There are some minor offsetting adjustments, but under their plan, there are no new net dollars for K-12 education, agriculture, higher education or health and human services. There are a few cuts in some areas.
The one area that received an increase was the budget for Jobs and Economic Development. The new funds in that area are for expansion of broadband in rural Minnesota. The funds for broadband are made available by shifting money from other budget targets. For instance, agriculture is reduced by about $1.9 million from funds previously appropriated last year.
There is no money tree at the legislature. In the process, any spending area competes for existing “new” funds or pre-existing appropriations. Any dollar spent in one area, cannot be spent somewhere else.
It seems evident by the numbers that the “surplus” will be used for tax cuts.
The proposal also provides debt payment capacity for a $600 million bonding bill. The Governor has requested $1.4 billion.
The plan is likely to contrast significantly with the Senate DFL. The Senate has not yet announced their plan but will this week.
House Supplemental budget bill rolled out April 12
Rep. Rod Hamilton (R) District 22B, presented his version of the House Supplemental budget bill for agriculture on Tuesday. As stated, the target for agriculture is a $1.9 million reduction. There were few dollars to work with, but a reallocation of dollars within the Ag budget is proposed. Approximately $9.8 million of last year’s appropriations for avian influenza were not used by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA). The bill proposal reallocates approximately $7.9 million of those funds to pay for new spending in three areas:
- Approximately $2 million would be provided for new software at the University Veterinarian Diagnostic lab for new software to better understand the movement of pathogen strains in livestock and poultry production systems.
- $5.5 million would provide for agriculture laboratory equipment and emergency response at the MDA
- $250,000 would be provided for a pilot program to provide grants for tractor rollover protection by retrofitting tractors
The bill will be heard and probably passed April 19 in the House Agricultural Finance committee. Amendments may be offered. A further review of the few policy changes in the bill will be forthcoming.