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Many of the questions focused on the government shutdown last year, and whether steps should be taken to ensure state spending or programs continue in the event of a future impasse.

Senate Finance Committee unanimously backs Schowalter

Jim Schowalter

The Senate Finance Committee unanimously recommended that Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter be confirmed by the full Senate.

Schowalter, who faced relatively easy questioning from lawmakers and had his family in tow at the hearing, told the panel that despite tough budget situations in recent years he’s worked to serve the state the best he’s able.

“I think you’ve all seen me in good times and bad times,” Schowalter told the committee. “It’s been a challenging year at Minnesota Management and Budget for this team.”

Many of the questions Schowalter faced focused on the state’s government shutdown last year, and whether steps should be taken to ensure state spending or programs continue in the event of a future impasse.

Schowalter gave a lukewarm endorsement of such plans, saying personally that it seems the specter of shutdowns has dissipated at the Capitol enough where it no longer seems adequate to force a compromise.

At the same time, though, Schowalter said it’s difficult to imagine a proposal that could force the two sides to the table and into agreement. He did say, though, that some of the shutdown’s effects were “illogical” in that certain aspects of government were allowed to continue but not others, for any number of reasons. Those concerns, Schowalter addded, are something that could be addressed by the Legislature.

“There’s pros and cons to pretty much everything around that idea,” he said. “State government isn’t meant to be pulled apart like cinnamon buns coming out of a tray.”

“But it would nice to have a little more of a guideline,” he added.

The panel’s unanimous recommendation comes after the full Senate rejected the nomination of former Sen. Ellen Anderson as head of the Public Utilities Commission, a move that roiled both DFLers in the Legislature and the Dayton administration. Anderson eventually agreed to work as a senior energy adviser.

There’s no timeline yet for when the full Senate may take up Schowalter’s nomination.

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