Rotunda Ramblings: Still No Targets, Update on Ag Bills

At the time of this writing, the House and Senate have still not agreed on spending and tax targets. With just 5 1/2 days to go, almost no final decisions have been agreed to with regards to taxes, the Supplemental Spending bill or the Transportation bill. Sound familiar? A Tax Conference Committee was scheduled at noon on May 18. This is the first time the conference committee, which was held over from last year, has met this year.

The MSGA lobbying team waiting for the Tax committee meeting (left to right): Cory Bennett, AJ Duerr, Jerry Schoenfeld

The MSGA lobbying team waiting for the Tax committee meeting (left to right): Cory Bennett, AJ Duerr, Jerry Schoenfeld

It is confusing as to how it will work. The House created a self- imposed target of $450 million for taxes May 17. The Senate, however, has not agreed to that number. They previously had indicated they would use $300 million. Normally, a target number is agreed to by both bodies before they start negotiations on what provisions will be in the bill. Evidently, the procedure will be a little different this year where the conference committee will have general discussions before targets are established. That is how the Transportation bill is being negotiated in their conference committee.

The Transportation Conference Committee has met several times this session. The Governor presented two different transportation plans to legislators. House Republicans rejected one of the plans outright because it included a gas tax increase of five cents. The other plan included a license tab increase. Both plans included funding for metro transit.

The House Republicans gave a counter offer that included tab increases and general fund money. It did not include any funding for metro transit. The Senate produced a bill several days ago, outside of the conference committee, that significantly raised gas taxes. They have not made any more offers. Most of these offers have been made at press conferences. Even though these offers have been floating around, they have not been dealt with in the conference committee that actually must write the bill.

The House is also bringing forth a bonding bill, which is approximately $800 million. The Senate bonding bill failed to pass on the Senate floor several days ago.

The previous several paragraphs describe the situation as it stands as to who is on first base and who is on second. However, by the time this is published things will probably have changed. 

Brief update on Ag bills

Two days ago in the late hours of the evening, the House passed their version of the manure piping bill. The Senate version is different and the bill will likely require a conference committee. However, the Township association is unhappy with the House version and the controversy could derail the entire bill.

The same evening produced the passage of the Omnibus Ag Policy bill. The bills’ two most important provisions according to House author Rep. Paul Anderson, R-12B, were the extension dates for the mandatory mediation law and the time extension of the organic task force.

The University of Minnesota had asked that a provision be contained in the bill to clarify the use of funds from the Agricultural Research, Extension, Education, and Technology (AGREET) transfer fund. Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-22B, offered an amendment to do so. Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-52A, attempted to amend the Hamilton amendment to transfer some of those funds to Emerald Ash Borer research. The amendment to the amendment was defeated. Minnesota Soybean Growers Association (MSGA) lobbyists were active in this discussion.