Finance divisions churning out budget billsPublished 6:08am Sunday, April 14, 2013
Column: Senate Report, by Dan Sparks
The Senate released its budget targets for each finance committee a few weeks ago. Throughout the week, Senate committees have begun rolling out their respective budget bills to meet and work with the overall state budget.
The omnibus bills we’re seeing now reflect those targets and lay the framework for how each finance division meets its budget goals. Together these bills will help form our budget for the 2014-2015 biennium. It is our goal to resolve our fiscal challenges while making long-overdue investments to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.
I am a member of the higher education and the environment, economic development and agriculture budget divisions. We have spent many hours reviewing proposals from legislators of both political parties as well as the administration for possible inclusion in these bills.
Higher education funding is a priority of mine. We need affordable post-secondary education that provides pathways to good-paying jobs that will in return produce a well educated workforce in businesses right here in Minnesota. Our funding of public colleges and universities has taken deep cuts in recent years and is at lower levels then we have seen in more than a decade.
I am hopeful that passage of the higher education bill this week is a good start toward reinvesting in our future. The University of Minnesota, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the Office of Higher Education are all positively impacted by the budget proposal.
The budget numbers for the other finance division I sit on have not been finalized, but the committee should complete its bill early next week. I am equally interested in the impact of this legislation. The environment, economic development and agriculture budget bill will be focused on a strong economic and workforce development proposal, including investments in our current and emerging agriculture businesses.
The release of our omnibus finance bills indicates we’re nearing the close of the 2013 legislative session. These bills will continue to go through some revision and work as they are moved through the Senate and then reconciled with the House.
In addition to the budget discussions, the governor’s and the House’s bonding proposals were released this week. Though the Senate has yet to release our own bonding recommendations, more than 100 proposals have already been heard in various committees. Our goal is to make sure bonding dollars are allocated fairly and wisely.
I have introduced legislation addressing issues in our communities, and I will continue to work for their inclusion in the Senate bill. In fact, Interim President Kent Hanson of Riverland Community College will join me to present a bill pertaining to the project for the Albert Lea campus expansion and renovation on Tuesday in a Higher Education Committee meeting.
As always, please feel free to reach out to my office with questions as we continue building our 2014-2015 budget.
Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the state senator for District 27.