Paul Gardner’s Plain English Guide to the Minnesota State Budget!

Those of you interested in understanding Minnesota’s budget process would be greatly helped by visiting Paul Gardner’s blog.  He did a great job making it easier to understand. I served with Paul in the MN House two terms and he is a great legislator who passed some very important environmental legislation.  You can get a start on his blog here and read more if you want to:

Well, readers, the election is over and I’m no longer in the state legislature. However, one of the things that I enjoyed doing the most is “de-mystifying” the legislative process, and I’d like to post some things regularly about how things get done (or don’t get done) at the State Capitol. There are a lot of news sources out there, including the political caucuses themselves, but they give very little insight into the nuts and bolts.

I thought I would start with the budget process, since Gov. Dayton and the legislature will be tackling a $6.2 billion deficit over the next few months. I must confess, there was no document like this available when I was in the legislature, at least not in one place! You just had to figure it out.

What’s the timeline for approving a state budget?

Here are a set of deadlines by which certain budget tasks have to get done. (These dates are for the FY2012-2013 budget only.) There is more detail on these steps later in the post.

  • First week of December 2010: MMB Commissioner presents forecast of revenues and expenditures and projects a surplus or deficit
  • February 15, 2011: Governor must send budget proposal to legislature
  • Last week of February 2011: MMB Commissioner presents revised forecast of revenues and expenditures; and Governor may issue a revised budget proposal in response
  • March through early April 2011: State agencies present detail of Governor’s budget to the legislature
  • Date TBD by legislature 2011: Budget targets are set by Ways & Means Committee that define how much funding will be in each finance committee’s budget
  • Mid-April 2011: Finance bills must be reported out of their respective finance committees
  • May 23, 2011: Constitutionally mandated adjournment for regular legislative session
  • July 1 2011: Fiscal year 2012 begins
  • December 2011, February 2012, December 2012 & February 2013: MMB gives additional forecasts that show if revenues and expenditures are in line with the approved budget
  • 2012 legislative session & 2013 legislative session: Legislature approves supplemental budget(s) that keeps the budget biennium ending on 6/30/13 in balance based on forecasts

The state budget we are talking about is for a two-year period–or biennium–starting July 1, 2011 and ending June 30, 2013. (Hereinafter Fiscal Year or FY2012-2013.) The state constitution, Article IV, Section 12, requires that the legislature complete its work by the “first Monday following the third Saturday in May” (this year that would be May 23rd). So the legislature needs to submit a budget that can be signed by the Governor by May 23rd, unless the Governor calls a special session after that time. If a budget is not signed by June 30th, 2011, then the state government would shut down. This happened in 2005 and it was not pretty.

Read more.

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