Legislature won't meet conference committee deadline

***UPDATE: Senator Berglin announced this morning (Thursday) that the HHS conference committee has a target (we’re hearing $503 million in cuts) and plans to meet the deadline and finish by midnight tonight.***

With a number of serious budget issues still outstanding, Speaker Kelliher acknowledged on Wednesday at the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy that the legislature will not meet the May 7th deadline to wrap up conference committees. This is a self-imposed deadline, so missing it doesn’t have any real consequences – it just means arriving at a compromise is getting pushed out closer to the last day of session (May 18th).

Of course, that’s not too surprising to those of us who have been hanging around the Capitol this week. (A little conference committee haiku: We wait in the room. Maybe something will happen, but then it does not.)

There are still major issues that haven’t been worked out, including:

  • How to use the federal Fiscal Stabilization Funds (about $816.5 million, most of which needs to be spent on K-12 or higher education).
  • Whether to shift education spending (both the Governor and the House have proposed to delay aid payments to schools, the Senate continues to say “no” to this budget gimmick).
  • Whether to adopt the Governor’s proposal to bond to balance the budget (both the House and Senate have said “no”).
  • Whether to raise taxes – and how much to raise in fees.

And once the House, Senate and Governor can agree on these issues – in other words, once they figure out how much spending they will need to cut – then they can finally set targets for the rest of the conference committees. (FYI – they still hold out hope that the Public Safety, State Government, and Agriculture and Veterans Affairs budget bills could meet the Thursday deadline.)

-Christina Wessel

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