Session wraps up at 2 a.m.; school funding increased
By Charley Shaw /Session Daily
ST. PAUL -- The House and Senate early this morning wrapped up negotiations on the supplemental budget bill.
Led by Rep. Lyndon Carlson Sr., D-Crystal, and Sen. Richard Cohen, D-St. Paul, negotiators decided to distribute $283 million in budget surplus money for programs ranging from higher education to corrections.The conference report was adopted at 2 a.m.An education funding agreement advanced by the committee would boost spending $54 million in the current biennium.The deal features a compromise that would increase the per-pupil funding formula by $25. The formula increase, which would be permanent, would cost $23.4 million in 2015.The House initially budgeted a $54 million formula increase while the Senate’s position heading into conference didn’t include an increase.Rep. Paul Marquart, D-Dilworth, said increased funding will provide school districts with the “flexibility they need to get to the world’s best workforce.”When the committee turned to agriculture and environment, a couple of differences between the House and Senate were unresolved and, as a result, $1.95 million of its $12 million target was still up for grabs.Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson testified that he had three concerns about the bill. Lacking, he said, was $350,000 in the department’s base for retail food handler inspections in St. Paul, $310,000 for the Board of Animal Health for a new inspection program for dog and cat breeders and $200,000 for research into porcine epidemic diarrhea virus.The committee recessed and lawmakers haggled over their differences well into the night before reconvening. The committee later in the evening adopted the administration’s three requests.A controversy then ensued over the Toxic Free Kids Act, which would require companies to report to the state if they sell products that contain certain toxic chemicals as determined by the Department of Health. Rep. Jean Wagenius, D-Minneapolis, spoke in favor of the proposal, stating the state “can’t give children the best education we can if we don’t protect their developing brains.”Cohen noted the proposal would have a “domino effect” in the larger end-of-session negotiations to the point that House Republicans wouldn’t support the bonding bill on the House Floor if it advanced. No motion was made to add the Toxic Free Kids Act to the bill.