Lawmakers propose new budget office

The office would analyze the financial implications of each bill introduced.

Benjamin Farniok

More than 3,000 bills have been introduced in the Legislature this session whose cost components are analyzed by the Minnesota Management and Budget office.

Some state lawmakers want to change that process and have introduced a pair of bills that would create a separate office to examine the financial impact of new legislation.

Last week, bills supporting a separate legislative budget office were introduced by House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Majority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.

The new office would supply legislators with cost projections and allow for separation of power between the legislative and executive branches.

The current budget office, which is managed by a governor-appointed commissioner, examines bills after they are introduced and provides a fiscal analysis to legislators.

Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, co-author of the bill and House majority leader, said it would allow legislators to be more involved in the cost examinations of pieces of legislation. The director of the new office would be appointed by a commission that manages the activities of groups within the Legislature.

“We would have the staff helping us determine the language of the bill also figuring out how much it is going to cost,” Peppin said. “It would just be a lot more efficient.”

However, Jay Kiedrowski, senior fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, said the creation of a new office is unnecessary — the longstanding Management and Budget office already provides analysis to lawmakers.

“To introduce the Legislature into this is just unnecessary duplication,” Kiedrowksi said.

Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, co-author of the Senate’s bill, said she is concerned that the Management and Budget office determines its own budget, and creating a separate office would put more power into legislators’ hands.

“In a constitutional republic, divided government and independence is one of the things that make our government work as it should,” Benson said.

Kiedrowski said legislative pressure could force the office to inaccurately estimate costs of bills. And if the current budget office continues to analyze legislation, it could also create confusion.

“This is a solution looking for a problem,” he said.