Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oddly Quiet Day at Legislature. It's a rare April day that neither house of the Legislature meets, but that was the case today. The conference committee on HF 1812--the omnibus budget-balancing bill--began its deliberations today with approximately 2 hours of discussion on several areas of funding cuts contained in the bill. The E-12 budget area was not discussed today, but will lead off tomorrow's deliberations. There is very little in terms of either education funding or policy in HF 1812, but it is one of the few areas of the budget that actually enjoys an increase in the bill. The conference committee will begin at 11:45 AM tomorrow morning and run until approximately 1:00 PM, when they will break. The conference committee intends to reconvene late tomorrow afternoon and run into the evening.

The conferees on HF 1812 are as follows:

House: Carlson (DFL-Crystal); Murphy, M. (DFL-Hermantown); Wagenius (DFL-Minneapolis); Rukavina (DFL-Virgina); Ozment (R-Rosemount).

Senate: Cohen (DFL-St. Paul), Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm), Frederickson (R-New Ulm), Betzold (D-Fridley), Higgins (D-Minneapolis).

Governor Goes "Lizzie Borden" on the Bonding Bill. That wasn't "Whack! Whack! Whack!" you were hearing the other day. It was more like "Scratch! Scratch! Scratch!" as the Governor took out his veto pen (red, of course) and carved about $200 million out of the bonding bill with 52 line-item vetoes. Strategically, it was probably the wiser move on the part of the Governor, as vetoing the entire bill would likely have led to another veto override (Yes, Virginia. There are projects in the bonding bill for Republican districts.).

A number of high-profile projects were given the hood and led to the gallows (mixed metaphor, maybe?), particularly the $70 million in the bill for the central corridor light-rail project to link downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. This veto could be extremely costly, as there is a considerable amount of federal money tied to this state match. The Governor also slashed $11 million for an expansion at Como Park (there goes the gorilla vote), $24 million for the new Bell Museum of Natural History on the St. Paul campus (there goes the remaining mammalian and reptilian votes), and $3 million for an expansion to the National Volleyball Center in Rochester (bump, set, SPIKED!).

It will be interesting to see how the Legislature counters these line-item vetoes. Like the veto of an entire bill, the Legislature can override a line-item veto with a two-thirds vote. I will keep you posted.

News stories on Bonding Bill Line-Item Vetoes:

Main Story: http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/17360219.html

Central Corridor Angle: http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/17388869.html

The New Minnesota Miracle Network. I said enough about the comprehensive funding reform efforts yesterday, but here is the press reaction.

StarTribune: http://www.startribune.com/politics/state/17373324.html

Pioneer Press: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_8845669?nclick_check=1

Associated Press (looks like the SparkNotes of the news): http://www.postbulletin.com/newsmanager/templates/localnews_story.asp?a=336437&z=16

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