After spending most of their time in sorting out the never-ending complexities of the rules and conditions attached to federal stimulus money, today’s meeting of the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy just wrapped up a few moments ago with legislative leaders expressing what had become obvious: The conference committees on the biggest omnibus bills–K-12, Higher Ed, Health and Human Services and Taxes–will not finish their work by the Legislature’s deadline of midnight tomorrow.
Two key reasons cited by members: ambiguity about how to treat those stimulus dollars, and the slow start to negotiations about budget targets with the governor’s office. House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm), who exchanged some harsh words about the governor’s negotiating tactics with Management and Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson yesterday, had this to say to Hanson today: "I know Rep. [and Minority Leader Marty] Seifert (R-Marshall) is going to ask me tomorrow about our concurrent resolution on [committee] deadlines, and we tried for what I think was the first time in the history of the Legislature to have a deadline on conference committee reports. We wanted to get them this week.
"We only control the Legislature. We have no control over the administration on that side of things. We certainly could have come to agreement as a Legislature and sent bills out that probably would have been vetoed, if I read Gov. Pawlenty’s letters correctly. In our conversation yesterday, you said the administration is not quite ready on some compromises to get to the end of session this week, it seems."
"I just want to be sure that when Rep. Seifert asks, I can tell him we’re working toward an end of session, and that we have a commitment from the administration–though we might be moving a little past the Legislature’s self-imposed deadline–that the end is in sight and Gov. Pawlenty and the administration are ready to close these bills out on time."
Said Hanson: "We appreciate your willingness to work with us."