The housing omnibus bill (S.F. 1937 / H.F. 2209) is finally here.
Until this Monday around noon, the policy team was gearing up to fight hard against a cut in the Minnesota House budget to the Challenge Fund. Leading up to that point, there was no indication that we should be hopeful that the House wouldn’t cut the program.
But, when the housing omnibus bill came out on Monday, we were pleasantly surprised.
All in all, the bill is better than expected. For the most part, it adopts the Senate’s housing bill, meaning it does not cut Challenge, and it maintains the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) budget at last year's numbers.
A little bit of background: The legislature released their budget targets last Friday. Each legislative committee needs these targets to make final versions of their bills. Basically, legislators want real numbers before they commit to the amount they’re willing to spend. Now that the targets are out, hopefully bills will move along.
Remember, at this stage, Republicans only have to agree among themselves. Then their bills go to the Governor. And then the bills will likely go back to the legislature where negotiations will finally begin in earnest. Both chambers hope to have their budget bills to the Governor by the end of this week. Stay tuned.
In other news, the House released a bonding bill earlier this week, and the first hearing was Wednesday. The bill contains far fewer bonding dollars than we’d hoped. It has $10 million in General Obligation (GO) Bonds, which are used to preserve public housing. The bill also re-issues $20 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds (HIB), which support development of supportive housing, among other things. Simply put, the bonding bill gives MHFA the green light to use the $20 million in leftover HIBs from the 2014-15 allocation. We were working to have this $20 million re-issued on top of new bonding for housing. But, unfortunately, the House bill does not create any new HIBs.
It’s a terrible bill, and despite opposition in the Senate – and among the public – it’s moving forward. Though nearly 70 people attended the Capital Investment Committee hearing to testify against the bill, the bonding bill passed committee. The one bright spot is that there is still time to negotiate a better bill. Both the Governor and the Senate released their bonding bills in January, and the House bill came out earlier compared to last year – a bonding year – when they released their bill five days before the end of session.
But, the countdown is on. As of 1:07 today, we have 18 days, 10 hours, and 47 minutes until session is over (not that we’re counting). Use this call script to urge leadership to invest in bonds for housing in the last few days of session.
Subscribe to Capitol Connect for updates as the bonding bill moves forward.