The Minnesota House is debating HF130, the first budget-related bill to get a significant floor debate this session. The bill cuts $181 million in spending in the current biennium and reduce the state’s next two-year budget by $819 million. The bill would extend temporary budget cuts that were passed during last year’s first special session.
The bill will most certainly pass the Republican-controlled House, but the session gives us the first glimpse into the type of debate we’ll be seeing this year on bills like this, which the DFL is fairly powerless to stop.
3:09 p.m. – Lawmakers are considering rules changes for the session. This could take a bit. There’s already an amendment to strike a rule setting a time limit for floor debate.
3:25 p.m. – An amendment to the rules proposal would ban contributions from corporations during the legislative session. But Rep. Matt Dean said. “it’s currently illegal to take contributions from corporations.” Dean deftly counters by adding “and labor unions” to Rep. Jim Davnie’s amendment. The amendment passed unanimously.
3:29 p.m. DFLer Ryan Winkler proposed a rule that during an even-numbered year, if the most recent forecast of state revenues and expenditures predicts a deficit for the biennium ending on June 30 of the next odd-numbered year, a House or Senate bill that proposes a constitutional amendment must not be considered on the calendar for the day, the fiscal calendar, or any other floor calendar until bills necessary to eliminate that projected deficit have been enacted into law.”
No doubt, this is a response to the plethora of GOP-backed constitutional amendment proposals this session. As such, it’s likely dead on arrival.
3:35 p.m. – “So far, only the minority party has been the one to bring up divisive social issues as constitutional amendments on the House floor,” Dean said.
3:36 p.m. – Another amendment has just been thrown in the hopper. Rep. Debra Hilstrom’s proposed rule would require bills be public for three days before any action is taken on them.
3:47 p.m. – Rep. Winkler’s amendment dies.
3:54 p.m. – Rep. Hilstrom’s amendment is sent off to a committee.
3:57 p.m. – The House now moves to the main event.
Rep. Mary Liz Holberg: “We are holding flat spending in higher education. We ask the administration to cut $220 million, a freeze on state worker pay, and there are spending reductions in health and human services that match the special session HF1 (unallotment). Local government aid at 2010 levels.”
4:00 p.m. Rep. Diane Loeffler ” These include risky and dangerous cuts. This bill makes major permanent reduction in child and community services grants, the only funding we provide to counties to support child protection reporting and response that kids throughout our state count on.”
4:03 p.m. – Rep. Debra Hilstrom: Says the legislature agreed to cutbacks last year because they knew stimulus money would replace it. That’s not the case this year. Calls it a “slash and burn approach.”
4:05 p.m. – Rep. Jim Abeler: ” I have medium-sized businesses afraid to hire. I have constituents whose long-term plan is to keep the house to next year. Because of that and because of the actions that were done last year, I think it’s a good idea to move forward today and to show we’re engaged and trying to make a difference so they can have some hope…” Says there’s no change in the funding, it just carries forward previous funding levels.
4:09 p.m. - Rep. Keith Downey: “The biggest failure is we haven’t restructured what we’re doing to make it sustainable in the future. I’d hoped stimulus would lift the economy, but it’s not happening. The good news is we do have a 5-percent increase in new revenues coming, but we have a 24% increase projected in our spending.”
4:11 p.m. Rep. Steve Gottwalt: “We’ve been making promises we can’t keep with money we do not have.” Says for the next biennium, the state will have another $2 billion to spend — 6% increase in revenues. Says his constituents have had to cut budgets. “A cut in their terms means less money spent this year than last year. Only in the Legislature could we define a cut as a smaller increase.”
4:16 p.m. – Rep. Jeff Hayden (Mpls) “We haven’t had a good conversation with service providers about how they’re going to handle these cuts. It’s easy to say last year’s cuts are this year’s cuts. They’re not. This is money we give to counties to investigate child protection. That’s a statewide issue. We know as the economy changes, these cases are on the rise. We’re seeing cuts to general assistance. A lot of this money goes to women who have been battered. That’s not a south Minneapolis issue, or a north Minneapolis issue; that’s an issue we’re facing all across this state.”
4:19 p.m. – Rep. Paul Marquart: “This bill creates up to over $300 million of new property tax increases.”
4:27 p.m. – Rep. Jenifer Loon (Eden Prairie) – “If anyone thinks they’re going to be able to balance the budget without making cuts, they’re not living in reality. They’ll have to make adjustments.”
4:35 p.m. – Rep. Kory Kath: “There are areas of the flood relief package that are in jeopardy. ”
4:37 p.m. – Rep. Tom Rukavina: “It’s not often I get to vote against a bill that’s opposed by my Chamber of Commerce… MnSCU is getting $23 million less… they’re real dollars. What are we doing to our students? When I came here 25 years ago, it was a little over 15% of our general fund dollars went to higher education. It’s what made our state great. With this, it’s bad enough that it went to 8% when I was chairing the committee. We had 7 deficits in Gov. Pawlenty’s 8 years.”
“The other side is concerned about the debt. What about the debt we’re saddling our children with because of tuition?”
“Why are you attacking the middle class? Why do you go after unions? The unions gave us middle class America.”
4:47 p.m. – Rep. Linda Runbeck: “In the recession we just came out of, Minnesota lost 162,000 private sector jobs. Government did not lose any. That does not send a good message about Minnesota. That doesn’t do anything for your community or my community. Do we really believe government should be a sacred cow? This bill says, ‘live within your means.’”
4:50 p.m. – Rep. Mark Buesgens: “State government is growing at 5 percent and 5 percent should be enough.”
4:53 p.m. – Rep. Larry Hosch: “How many of you sat at forums and said you were going to cut students’ financial aid. How many said you were going to cut child protection? How many sent out mailers that you would cut veterans’ services?”
4:56 p.m. – Rep. Frank Hornstein : ” We don’t touch overseas corporate tax loopholes, and people hiding tax havens in the Caribbean. Let’s go after those sacred cows. There are people at the top who continue to enjoy tax breaks and tax loopholes at the middle class’ expense.”
4:59 p.m. – Rep. Bob Gunther: “There are three businesses in my district working only 30 hours and they’re happy to have those 30 hours. They’re going to resent state workers.”
5:04 p.m. Rep. Rukavina: “The 50 wealthiest Minnesotans in 2003, the poorest adjusted was $12 million. In 2008, their combined income is $2.4 billion. They got $1 billion more in five years. You don’t want us to tax them because they create jobs. Gov. Pawlenty created 1,000 jobs in eight years.
5:05 p.m. – Rep. Gregory Davids: “If someone made a billion dollars, I’d say ‘congratulations, you had a great year, now make more so we can tax you more.’ Nobody’s getting less. Show me in the bill that says we’re cutting military or veterans affairs? It doesn’t say that in the bill.”
5:09 p.m. – Rep. Holberg: “We’ve heard this is a piecemeal approach. The only way to eat a hippo is a piece at a time. We’ve got a big problem in front of us. Starting to work on it now makes sense. ”
5:14 p.m. – Rep. Paul Thissen “(The bill) tightens the squeeze on middle-class residents…. This proposal asks the same people who have been bearing the burden of balancing the budget, to bear the burden of balancing the budget while other people get off. We’re not authorized to play budget whack-a-mole… There’s no prioritization regardless of the rhetoric on the Republican side of the aisle… you’re breaking the promise that you made to your constituents… this will mean local communities will lose and property taxes will go up.”
5:25 p.m. Rep. Matt Dean: “When we’re going from a $30 billion budget to a $32 billion budget, we need to prioritize.”
VOTE: YES: 68 NO: 63
Several Republicans broke ranks with leadership on the bill.
Rep. Rich Murray — a Republican — changed his vote to “no.” Rep. Thissen claimed he did so because “he was now concerned about LGA cuts. That brought a rebuke from Speaker Kurt Zellers about questioning the integrity of members.
I’ll post the roll call in a few minutes Here’s the roll call vote.