A potential spending outline that would use up most if not all of the state’s record surplus is on the table as state lawmakers near the halfway point of the 2023 regular session.
Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders announced the framework in late March. The proposal would increase the state budget by almost $17.9 billion over the next two years, and would represent a plus-30 percent hike in the state’s $52 billion biennial budget.
It’s unusual for spending targets to be announced at this point in a legislative session. Typically targets are released later on. House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said the intent is to get targets to committees and department leaders sooner.
The announcement has disability advocacy groups and individuals combing through the details, to see what could be included. Human services has a $1.3 billion target, with a health and human services target at $755 million.
With so many bills and competing interests at the capitol, this session, it’s inevitable that not everything will make it through the process. There are already calls for more human services spending beyond what is proposed.
The budget agreement was reached by Walz, Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic (DFL – Minneapolis). Republicans immediately criticized the proposal, saying it is too large and calling it a spending spree.
At a March 21 news conference, Walz said, “Government can work together for the people. We can reach compromises. We can get our work done on time, and we can deliver a budget that Minnesotans can be proud of.”
Much focus is on education, with state public schools tabbed for an additional $2.2 billion more over the next two years, with $650 million more for higher education. The children and families target is $1.17 billion (HHS – children and families, $875 million; early education at $300 million).
The proposal also contains $1 billion for housing, and $670 million for a statewide paid family and medical leave program. Tax relief is also a big focus with $3 billion.
A complete list of targets is at https://www.house.mn.gov/SessionDaily/Story/17838
Legislators passed the second bill deadline March 24, and have a third and final deadline April 4. The session ends May 22. The budget year begins July 1.
How everything will fare begins to play out in April. Democrats hold narrow margins in the House and Senate, and that of course affects whether or not bills will pass.
Republicans in the Senate already blocked a $1.5 billion infrastructure bill.
Disability-related legislation is moving ahead on many fronts, which is encouraging for advocates and advocacy groups. Many measures are being considered for inclusion in larger omnibus bills. Everything from PTSD for first responders to the need for adult-sized changing tables in public restrooms is still in play. Advocates are also watching high-profile bills including legalization of cannabis.
Disability groups are wrapping up their rally days, with the large ARRM and MOHR rally at the end of March after this issue of Access Press went to press.
Advocates are being urged to continue contacting legislators about their priorities, to make sure issues are included in larger bills.
Advocacy groups continue to post legislative updates, so those are great source of information. The Minnesota Council on Disability offers updates as well as a bill tracker. Several news media outlets also offer bill trackers.
Editor Jane McClure compiled the March legislative coverage.