WEEK TWELVE: March 24, 2017
Senate Republicans released their budget targets a week ago – which means everyone from the press to DFL senators and the public took time to pour over the numbers throughout the week. Disappointment and maligned priorities were the name of the game this week.
Despite hearing very costly bills in most committees throughout session, the Senate Republicans’ budget priorities lie with tax cuts for wealthy corporations, slim investments in education and transportation, and major cuts to other areas – particularly health and human services and the equity investments passed just last year.
Budget bills are still being crafted in many committees, but are expected to be passed to the Senate floor soon. Next week’s floor session is expected to be lengthier.
The week rounded out with some much-needed distractions in the form of National Puppy Day. Several shelter puppies were delivered to the State Office Building on Thursday and were promptly surrounded by adoring legislators and staffers.
There are exactly two months remaining in the 2017 Legislative Session.
In 2011, the state faced a $6 billion budget deficit. Thanks to the Senate DFL and Governor Dayton’s smart fiscal management, Minnesota now has $1.6 billion on its bottom line and stable savings to protect our state against future economic downturns. Minnesotans know that you cannot run a business or support a family if you are spending more than you have. They rightfully expect state government to be held accountable to those same standards. We must carefully balance smart investments to strengthen, support, and invest in our economy and quality of life.
Governor Dayton continued to follow these guidelines when he released his supplemental budget proposal on Friday, March 17. The supplemental proposal builds on the Governor’s previously released budget proposal while protecting the fiscal responsibility of our state’s budget.
In addition to the Governor’s proposed investments, his supplemental budget proposal would keep $200 million in savings, along with Minnesota’s already substantial budget reserve savings of more than $1.5 billion. Click here to read more.
Senate Republicans released budget targets this week for each committee within the context of a $1.65 billion surplus. The largest target, $900 million, is dedicated to the Tax Committee. While the details for the tax bill are still being worked out, DFLers are focused on ensuring tax relief focuses on hard-working Minnesotans, not corporations or the wealthy. Additionally, the Senate DFL wants to be sure the proposed bill does not jeopardize the state’s long-term fiscal health.
Minnesota Health and Human Services would take a significant cut under the Senate Republican budget targets. Their budget would cut $335 million from services for citizens across the state. The magnitude of this spending reduction will not be fully understood until after the committee assembles their budget. It is likely to impact seniors, people with disabilities, and many more vulnerable citizens in our communities. This is in addition to transferring $240 million from the state’s budget reserve for health insurance companies with no guarantees these companies will lower premiums or increase access.
Minnesota’s spending on environment and natural resources will be cut by $40 million under the target. Outdoor resources, the clean-up of our lakes and rivers, and other clean water initiatives will all be harmed by this spending reduction.
These budget bills are still being assembled but are slated to move rapidly from committees to the Senate Floor by the end of next week. Once the House and Senate pass their bills they will go to conference committees where differences will be worked out. Conference committees are generally when governors have become engaged in the process of constructing omnibus budget and policy bills.
The Senate’s higher education omnibus bill released this week short-changes students, providing little to fund the University of Minnesota and MnState college programs.
The Republicans’ State Government and Elections Omnibus Bill passed the Senate State Government Finance Committee this week. The bill cuts $30 million from the forecasted budget for the division, which would cause job layoffs, reduce quality of services to constituents, result in longer waiting times, and inflict higher long-term costs.
As the majority party in the Senate, Republicans are tasked with developing a state budget proposal to negotiate with the House and Governor before the end of the legislative session in May. Last week, leaders offered a peek into their tax plan for the next two years. Few details were revealed but the overall spending target was – $900 million of the $1.6 billion surplus will be committed to tax proposals.