Rotunda Ramblings: Second Committe Deadline Set for Friday

In the legislative process, the theory is that all policy measures must pass all policy committees in both bodies by this Fridays’ policy deadline.

In the real world, however, it does not always work that way.

Amendments can be added to other bills, new bills may be redirected to tax or spending committees with longer deadlines, those that have the votes can bring forth measures through the Rules committee. In other words, the number one rule is that those who have the votes rule, and the number two rule is that, as Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.

Oh, one more rule: The Governor has to sign the bill.

With these rules in mind, I can tell this audience that all of the proposals put forth by the Ag Commodity Coalition are alive in some fashion, at this juncture. Those proposals include the ag research effort, a proposal on ag land property tax reductions, ag nuisance lawsuit legislation, changes for MPCA rules on farm truck washes, Veterinary Diagnostic lab funding, changes to the MPCA citizens board, funds for Farm Business Mgt. programs, and measure to enhance Ag Education.

That is not to say that all of these measures do not still have a long way to go. They do, and some may not reach the finish line. However, as of now, after the close of the second deadline, a deadline intended to weed out the field, all of the proposals still have life. Up until now, the cases have all been made about policy.

The political process sets in

Now is the time that the game shifts into a higher gear. On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means committee set targets. This was on the heels of the Governors’ revised budget, which was based on the new budget forecast of late February.

Those targets set spending allocations for all Finance Divisions and generally for the tax committee divisions. Those targets account for $43 billion of spending and tax cuts. Those targets set in place major spending cuts in the 2016-17 base for Health and Human Services ($1.148 billion), base cuts for Environment and Natural Resources ($24.5 million), and base cuts for state government ($67.4 million).

The targets also increased the base K-12 education ($156 million), Higher education ($53.4 million), and Transportation($147 million).

Agriculture was increased $9.5 million. The base Ag budget is presently $81.6 million and represents .2 percent of the state budget. That increase does not come close to meeting the $39 million increase requested in the Ag Coalition Ag research effort.

There is some other reason for potential increases however. The House proposal allows for $2.2 billion of tax reductions and has more than $300 million not yet allocated.

Additionally, there are two other legs of the stool, the Senate and the Governors’ office. Their proposals have little in common with the House, which will mean that things will change before it is all over. This was the first shot across the bow. Before this is all over the chess pieces will change many times. It could be a real tussle.