With House Speaker Melissa Hortman’s (DFL-36B, Brooklyn Park) Wednesday announcement on Twitter of a positive COVID test, House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler’s (DFL-46A, Golden Valley) endorsement contest for Hennepin County Attorney on Saturday, the State Republican Endorsing Convention also on Saturday in Rochester, House Capital Investment Chair Fue Lee (DFL-59A, Minneapolis) off to Ohio, because of his wife, is State Senator Tina Maharath (D-03, Whitehall) is giving birth to their first child and the fact the conference committee work seems to be mostly focused on policy language sets an interesting stage.
With neither body holding legislative sessions today or over the weekend, it’s clear there isn’t any sense of urgency. The speaker with have completed her five-day quarantine, hopefully without any residual effects, will hold talks with Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-14, Winona). The leadership seems to be continuing with making the major funding decisions and keeping those conversations amongst themselves.
Since this is supposed to be a Bonding Session, our discussions with Senate Capital Investment Committee Chair Tom Bakk (I-03, Cook) lead us to believe, there will not be hearings, but rather a Langseth Model delivery of a fully formed Bonding Bill. This is a reference to former Capital Investment Committee Chair Keith Langseth (D-Glyndon) who delivered his bill in just such fashion. We spoke with Langseth about his approach and he said, “There has to be a balance, I think Higher Education should be a top statewide priority in my opinion.”
As we have said repeatedly over the years, we think there should be a differed maintenance Bonding Bill and when reading the line items in a Langseth bill we started seeing a new term of art-HEAPR (Higher Education Asset Preservation and Replacement).
We understand Speaker Hortman will have a Cash Bonding Bill, which will account for a significant amount from the Budget Surplus. Although with the remaining $6.553 billion after the $2.7 billion deal for Reinsurance, which placated Republicans and the Hero Pay for frontline workers which satisfied the DFL, how the remaining money is allocated is the crux of the question, especially when Republicans are still maintaining the American Experiment line of give it all back.
As we have communicated there will need to be cash in the Bonding Bill to make something happen, the question is how much. They could just put forward $2 billion from the surplus, provide one-time money and fund many statewide projects without any fiscal tails.
Since by many impressions, the Speaker has treated this session much like a normal funding session, and the endpoint is looming, it gives a semblance of credibility to the idea of the need for a Special Session, but more things have been achieved in past sessions with even less time available.
This would be a huge way for the state to move ahead, with a robust jobs bill, repair of infrastructure issues across the state and a campaign agenda where each side put Minnesota ahead of partisanship. This would leave over $4 million for other items along with a potential tax cut for the working class and maybe even a few Walz Checks.