While the U.S. Congress has not yet passed this year’s appropriations bill, it has agreed on a temporary compromise to keep the federal government operating. President Obama signed a bill on Wednesday that would continue funding at current levels through March 4, 2011. It is not anticipated that the current lame-duck Congress will pass a final appropriations package before it adjourns. Instead, that duty will be passed to the incoming Congress that will be sworn in in January.
2010 Census data was also released this week, which showed that the State of Minnesota has had sufficient population growth to retain all eight of its Congressional districts. Minnesota was awarded the 435th seat in the allocation process, narrowly beating out North Carolina. Minnesota will now begin the process of redistricting Congressional districts as well as state legislative districts in light of the new demographic data.
It's been a relatively quiet week in state politics, as both Governor-Elect Dayton and the legislature finalize staffing and strategy for the coming year. The legislature announced its committee schedule this week; the Senate Higher Education Committee will meet on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00 to 4:30 and the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 12:30 to 2:15. Committee membership has not yet been announced, nor has it been announced who the House Committee Administrator will be. It has been announced that former MSCSA Director of Government Relations Jason Fossum will be Committee Administrator in the Senate. Read about it here.
The U.S. Congress has not yet passed this year's budget bill. Both the House and Senate budget proposals include funding of the current $5.7 billion Pell Grant shortfall. If the shortfall is not funded, students will see a decrease in the maximum Pell Grant award in the 2011-12 school year. Congress did pass the so-called "Bush Tax Cuts" bill late Thursday night. The tax bill includes a two-year extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Originally part of the Stimulus Plan, the AOTC provides a $2,500 tax credit for qualified higher education expenses. $1,000 of the credit is refundable, meaning that students can get a partial refund for their higher education expenses, even if their income tax liability is less than $2,500. The tax bill also includes extension of an income tax deduction for higher education expenses and income tax deduction for student loan interest.