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Minnesota Political Notebook: Leaders always leave little time for budget talks

ST. PAUL-Minnesota's method of producing a state budget is a mystery to most state residents, as well as many Capitol insiders. Legislators discuss pieces of the budget from January through early May in committees.

Don Davis of Forum News Service
Don Davis of Forum News Service

ST. PAUL - Minnesota's method of producing a state budget is a mystery to most state residents, as well as many Capitol insiders.

Legislators discuss pieces of the budget from January through early May in committees. Parts of the budget may pass the House or Senate before May, but most budget bills do not get votes until May.

Budgets are divided into several topical areas, such as transportation, education, higher education, the environment, etc.

After spending bills pass both chambers, they often just sit there until the governor, Senate majority leader and House speaker sit down to negotiate a final deal.

Usually, those overall talks begin 10 days to two weeks before the constitutional deadline for the Legislature to adjourn (this year it is Monday).


The state's top three politicians sit with others they think may be helpful behind closed doors in the governor's office, or his official residence this year, and work out how much should be spent in each area of the budget.

They also discuss some specifics. This year, for instance, the trio decided that part of the higher education budget has to be $30 million for University of Minnesota medical research.

Once the big three decide total spending for an area of the budget, they hand their requirements to House and Senate chairmen, who lead conference committees charged with the duty of working out details.

Final decisions usually do not come out of the governor's confab until days before the adjournment deadline, leaving little time for conference committees to examine every detail. Budget debates on the House and Senate floors usually go to near the last possible minute, and sometimes into special legislative sessions.

In the meantime, lawmakers not in the high-level talks wonder what is happening.

Republicans asked Assistant Senate Majority Leader Katie Sieben, D-Newport, for an update the other day. Her answer: "I'm watching Twitter to see what other developments are occurring and I would encourage you to do the same."

Political payback?

Longtime Republican politician Bill Kuisle suggests Gov. Mark Dayton's desire to require vegetative buffer strips around water could be political payback.


Kuisle, running mate last year to governor candidate Jeff Johnson, said that "ever since Gov. Dayton won re-election last November he has been on the attack against Minnesota farmers."

Dayton originally said he wanted a 50-foot buffer, but once opposition surfaced he relented and said he was flexible on that point. He also has said farmers are not alone in polluting waters.

Kuisle said he drove 20,000 miles during last fall's campaign. "Let me tell you that Minnesota is a very beautiful state and I did not see the cesspools the governor is talking about."

"The governor has said he is not running again and needs to flip the Minnesota House back to his side to fulfill his liberal agenda," Kuisle said. "He has found a clever way of pitting hunters and fisherman against farmers."

Republicans took the House back from Democrats last November, largely because of gains in rural Minnesota.

One in, one out

One candidate to challenge U.S. Rep. Tim Walz jumped into the race and another opted to stay away.

Republican Jim Hagedorn announced he will run for the southern Minnesota House seat. He failed in his 2014 effort to unseat Democrat Walz.


Hagedorn said he will work full time on his campaign.

Also, state Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, announced he will not run. Speculation had been heavy that he would seek the GOP nomination.

Sibling bill signed

Dayton has signed a bill authored by the first brother-and-sister team to serve in the House.

The bill by Republican Reps. Brian Daniels of Faribault and Marion O'Neill of Maple Lake clarifies a state law for professionally licensed engineers. It is the first bill Daniels and O'Neill got passed together.

Ortman won't run

State Sen. Julianne Ortman, who unsuccessfully ran for U.S. Senate last year, is leaving her state job.

Ortman is the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Taxes Committee. She has served four terms.


She probably is best known for seeking the GOP nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken last year. She fell well short at the Republican state convention.

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