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Fiscal Notes

By statute, executive branch agencies are required to prepare fiscal notes at the request of the Legislature. A fiscal note estimates the costs, savings, revenue gain, or revenue loss that would result from the implementation of proposed legislation. It is a tool to help legislators better understand how a bill might impact the state budget as a whole, individual agencies, and in some instances, local governments. When a note is requested, Admin's Financial Management and Reporting team notifies the appropriate areas of the agency with a responsibility to review and analyze the bill and complete the fiscal note process. Fiscal note responses should only focus on the fiscal implications of the bill for which the request was made. A quick turnaround time and timely access to information is imperative during the legislative session.

Individual fiscal notes can be viewed using Minnesota Management and Budget's Fiscal Note Tracking System. If you are seeking a fiscal note that is not listed in the tracking system, contact Admin Financial Management and Reporting staff for assistance.

Reference the information below for instructions and guidelines for preparing a fiscal note response. This information is current for 2013 and will be revised as needed. Links to appropriate forms, resources and contacts are also included below.

Instructions

Admin receives notification from Minnesota Management and Budget when a fiscal note response is required. Admin's Financial Management and Reporting team determines, based on the content of the bill, which divisions should respond. Responding divisions receive an email from the Admin Fiscal-Notes mailbox that includes:

  • Copy of the Proposed Legislation
  • Fiscal Note Worksheet – To be completed and submitted for each fiscal note request
  • Fiscal Note Addendum – To be completed and submitted with worksheet when the proposed legislation has a fiscal impact that includes a change in staffing. This worksheet helps respondents identify costs associated with changes in staffing.


Once divisions are notified of a fiscal note, it is the responsibility of the division to review and analyze the bill and complete the Fiscal Note Worksheet and Fiscal Note Addendum in the timeframe specified. "Urgent" fiscal note requests may require turnaround time of one day or less. When requests are urgent, divisions will receive an email notification and a follow-up phone call. Generally, the timeframe for non-urgent fiscal notes is two to three days.

Submit the completed worksheet and addendum to the Admin Fiscal-Notes mailbox for entry into the state's fiscal note tracking system. To ensure agency knowledge and tracking, please include the Commissioner, Curt Yoakum, Ryan Church, and the appropriate assistant commissioner and division director in the ‘cc’ line. The designated staff will be cc’d on the original distribution of the fiscal note request and a ‘reply all’ will ensure communication with the appropriate agency staff.

General Guidelines

  • Information in fiscal notes should be factual, informative and concise and should not attempt to influence the outcome of a bill.
  • Complete, objective, accurate and factual fiscal notes reflect positively on the agency. 
  • Read the bill carefully and compare to existing statutory language. Look carefully for repealer clauses at the end of the bill.
  • Responses should only focus on the fiscal implications of the bill.
  • Clearly state all assumptions to ensure clarity. This is particularly important when the provisions in the bill are either uncertain or permissive.
  • Do not use inflation factors to increase costs for future biennia. Provide estimates of known costs. Only include costs for the current fiscal year if the bill language indicates an effective date prior to July 1 of the current year (i.e. only FY2013 costs for an effective date prior to July 1, 2013). 
  • Be as clear as possible – avoid the use of jargon and acronyms. The narrative should be written to communicate to a general audience.
  • Responses may comment on mechanical or technical defects of the bill, but comments and opinions relative to the proposed legislation’s value should not be included.
  • Fiscal note responses should not be distributed to the Legislature by department staff and are not official until released by Minnesota Management and Budget. It is possible to share preliminary fiscal notes with legislative staff to facilitate communication, but discuss internally before distributing. If the decision is made to distribute the information, clearly mark the information “Preliminary.”
  • Maintain fiscal note work papers for at least two years following the applicable legislative session.

Additional Considerations

  • Communication – Historically there has been limited communication with the legislature during fiscal note preparation. If there is missing information or a lack of clarity in the language and greater understanding would provide for a more thorough fiscal note response, the fiscal analyst may be able to assist. Whenever possible, please discuss with Financial Management and Reporting staff if there is a need to communicate with the requester or if you have communicated with them.
  • Timeframes - Pay close attention to the time and date responses are due and submit the worksheet and addendum accordingly. If you are unable to submit on time, send an email to the Admin Fiscal-Notes mailbox identifying when it will be submitted. Once Admin enters the fiscal note response in the tracking system, the information is reviewed for accuracy and consistency by Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) before the note is finalized.
  • Assumptions - In the Assumptions section of the Fiscal Notes worksheet include adequate detail so readers can gain a clear understanding of the information considered when developing the assumptions.
  • Expenditures and Revenue Formula - In the Expenditures and Revenue Formula section of the Fiscal Notes worksheet provide detailed information about costs and revenues. 
  • For responses that note no fiscal impact, in the Assumptions section of the Fiscal Note worksheet include a brief description (one to three sentences) identifying the factors that were considered when it was determined that there was no fiscal impact. 
  • Unknown Fiscal Impact - In the rare cases when no data exists to support a reasonable set of assumptions, respond with the statement “The fiscal impact cannot be determined.” Before making the determination that the fiscal impact is indeterminable, discuss internally with Admin's legislative liaison and Financial Management and Reporting staff to discuss contact to legislative staff or the bill author.
  • Appropriations  - For bills containing an appropriation, funding, or blank appropriation amount estimate revenues and expenditures without regard to the amount referenced. Do not assume that the dollar amount in the bill equals the program cost and make your own evaluation of what would be required if the bill is enacted into law. If your estimate and the bill amount are different, include an explanation of the difference in the supporting narrative section.
  • Multiple Agencies - For bills involving more than one agency the lead agency is responsible for coordinating the fiscal note with the other assigned agencies. Communication and coordination is necessary to avoid contradictory assumptions, double counting, or omissions.
  • Capital Projects and Bonding - Fiscal Note Worksheets for bills involving Capital Projects and bonding will be assigned to both MMB and the agency responsible for operating the proposed capital project. MMB is responsible for preparing the portion of the fiscal note relating to bonding and debt service costs. The agency is responsible for preparing a fiscal note for ongoing operating costs (i.e. utilities, custodial, etc.) that would be incurred if the proposed capital project were approved. The capital appropriation amount should only be included in the supporting narrative of the fiscal note and not the fiscal implications section as that will be completed by MMB. If there is a difference between the capital appropriation amount in the bill and the amount needed to complete the project, the difference needs to be stated in the supporting narrative.
  • Local Governments - Fiscal Note Worksheets for bills involving Local Government Units or Political Subdivision should be prepared in conjunction with the local government contacts identified in Chapter 2 of the MMB Fiscal Notes Policy Manual. Fiscal notes should not be delayed when local government organizations do not respond within the time allotted. 
  • Technology Impact - Fiscal Note Worksheets for bills with technology impact are assigned to the impacted agency and MN.IT Services. However, in some cases, it may not be apparent in the bill language that there is a technology impact. Fiscal notes with a technology-related impact must be reviewed and approved by the agency’s chief information officer prior to submission to MMB.
  • Contingency Bills - Fiscal Note Worksheets for contingency bills that provide funding to continue operations in the event budget legislation is not enacted by July 1 of an odd number year should not reflect costs unless there are new costs to the state. Existing costs should be discussed in the narrative and cost estimates should be reflected in bi-weekly amounts. The 2012 shut down plan should be used as a resource. If the bill does not include an appropriation, please coordinate with Admin's legislative liaison to work with the author to ensure legal authority exists for funds to be available.
  • Central Service Agency - For bills with Central Service Agency Responses, the central service agency should work with impacted agencies, whenever possible, to develop and review the assumptions and expenditures formulas. In cases where a cost impact to agencies is apparent, but cannot be estimated, follow the instructions for responses where the fiscal impact cannot be determined.
  • Amended Bills - Fiscal Note Worksheets on amended bills should be prepared according to the latest version of the bill, unless specific instructions are given to do otherwise. Ensure that the correct version of the bill is noted on the worksheet. 
  • Absorbed Costs - Narrative responses on the Fiscal Note Worksheet that identify any ‘small additional cost’ that the agency plans to absorb should be identified in the Absorbed Costs section on the first page of the worksheet. Absorption of costs needs to be supported with analysis clearly explaining the costs and why they can be absorbed

Contact

If you have questions or need assistance with fiscal notes, contact Bruce Lemke at 651-201-2530, Julie Poser at 651-201-2531 or Lenora Madigan at 651-201-2563.