Friday, February 11, 2011

So Much for the Preliminaries. Governor Dayton vetoed HF 130, the nearly $1 billion package of cuts passed by the Legislature, shortly after the bill hit his desk yesterday afternoon. The Governor's objections were fairly straightforward, although he threw in a constitutional objection to the bill as well as stating his disagreement with the thrust of several policies in the bill.

The Governor's reason for the veto are as follows:
  • Cuts to local government aid will raise property taxes, which are regressive and take the state in a direction away from his goal of making the state's state and local tax framework more progressive.
  • The bill makes "inaccurate and undocumented assumptions about the amounts (of revenue) not yet encumbered for this fiscal year." The Governor states this is a failure in the Legislature's oversight responsibility. In taking this tack, the Governor contends that the Legislature has acted unconstitutionally in that it did not change the parameters of the programs involved and have left responsibility for making policy changes to the Executive Branch and that this is the same approach that made the 2009 actions by then-Governor Pawlenty unconstitutional.
  • HF 130 is a "piece-meal" approach passed at a time when a comprehensive package is needed.

Things have been quite civil up until now and both sides have been disagreeing politely, but there were a couple of statements in the Governor's State of the State address that not surprisingly rankled Republican legislative leadership (and the former Governor), so things will likely be heating up, especially after the Governor releases his budget next Tuesday. It's going to contain a proposed income tax increase and I don't think anyone will be surprised by the reaction that will produce.

Two different world views are at work here and there's nothing wrong with a little "spice in the chili" as these two sets of viewpoints try to iron out a workable state budget solution, but I hope the discussion stays within the boundaries of the reasonable in terms of tone. As Senator Geoff Michel said in the StarTribune story, "We're going to have a clash. And that's okay." Conflict, verbal or otherwise, is rarely comfortable, but given what appears to be the generational, philosophical, and political differences in play, conflict is unavoidable. This is what democracy is about and as long as no one tries to re-enact the South Carolina Senator Preston Brooks' 1856 caning of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States' Senate, I think we're okay.

Alternative Licensure Passes House. SF 40 (HF 63), Senator Gen Olson's and Representative Pat Garofalo's alternative teacher licensure bill passed the full House yesterday by a vote of 72-59. The vote was almost party-line, but a handful of each party went against the overwhelming majorities of their respective caucuses. The main difference between the House and Senate bills revolves around the the issue of reciprocity, meaning the recognition of alternative licenses granted in other states. The House has a streamlined reciprocity process while the Senate has no reciprocity in their bill. The bill now heads back to the Senate, where a decision will be made whether or not to accept the House's version of the bill. If the Senate does not accept the changes, there will be a conference committee early next week.

The fate of the bill after an accord between the two legislative bodies is reached is anyone's guess. Governor Dayton wants to do something in the area of alternative licensure, but it is unclear whether or not this bill will meet the criteria he seeks in an alternative licensure program.

You Too Can be a Legislator! Admit it, it's what you've always wanted! MinnPost Sharon Schmickle has constructed this interesting little exercise at the MinnPost site that allows you to balance the state budget "your way" (move over Burger King). Fun to try and instructive as well.

"You fix the Minnesota budget" link:

We're Not Alone. I posted an article from Wisconsin earlier in the week showing that Minnesota is not alone in its crucial debates over education budget and policy matters. Here are two articles from the Iowa Independent, a web-based publication (part of the American Independent network) that follows Iowa politics and government outlining what is happening in our neighbor to the south.

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