MN Senate panel looks at budgeting changes

Minnesota lawmakers are considering big changes in the way they put together the state budget.

Legislation approved Tuesday by the Senate Committee On State Government Finance and Policy and Elections would build the budget from scratch every two years rather than the current approach of adjusting up or down from existing base spending levels.

Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, the bill’s chief author, said a move to zero-based budgeting would be labor intensive but worth the effort.

“We need to understand better, not only for transparency but for accountability, we need to understand better what’s in that budget, what’s in the base budget,” Fischbach said. “Then we are able to spend more efficiently and prioritize better on the things that are important to the people of Minnesota and the taxpayers.”

Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, raised concerns about the potential expense of zero-based budgeting. He also said there’s little evidence of benefits.

“I don’t know that I’m willing to put that kind of money into something where all of the history is that is just doesn’t work,” Carlson said.

The committee also approved a separate proposal to create a new Legislative Budget Office to assess the financial impact of proposed legislation. That work is currently handled by executive branch agencies and Minnesota Management and Budget.

Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, is the bill's chief sponsor.

Both bills go next to the Senate Finance Committee.

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