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March 29, 2019

Legislature Releases Budget Targets 

This week, the House and Senate released their respective budget targets for the 2019 session, giving the public a glimpse into the new spending priorities for each body and setting up the parameters for the upcoming budget negotiations between Governor Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park), and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa).

As expected, the Democratically-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate (representing the only divided legislature in the nation) are far apart on their spending goals for the 2019-2020 biennium. See more details of the House and Senate budget details below:

House Proposal: “Minnesota Values Budget”

On Monday, House DFL leaders presented their proposed budget to the public, giving committee leads their spending targets for the biennial budget that will begin to take shape as the legislative session moves into its final two months. The House budget closely mirrors Governor Tim Walz’s proposal of $49.4 billion with $563 million left unspent.

The House budget, however, does depart from the Governor’s proposal by taking further action to close corporate tax loopholes to bring in more revenues for spending. Specifically, the House budget proposes nearly $900 million in increased spending for E-12 education and a $300 million increase to the higher education budget to implement a tuition freeze at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State campuses. The proposal also adds over $200 million in local bonding projects to the Governor’s initial $1.3 billion capital budget proposal.

For more information on the House DFL budget here.

Senate Proposal: “Access. Affordability. Accountability.”

Senate Republicans criticized both budget proposals from the Governor and the House DFL majority during their budget release on Thursday. Majority Leader Gazelka, joined by committee chairs, expressed his criticism of the DFL spending initiatives by stating that the Governor and the Speaker were “in a contest to see who could tax and spend the most.”

The Republican proposal keeps spending at $47.6 billion with no new taxes – including no new gas tax which the Governor has relied heavily on to fund his robust transportation bill. The budget outline proposes a combination of bonding and utilization of the state’s $1 billion budget surplus to fund transportation infrastructure projects.

Another significant departure from the DFL proposals is the elimination of the state’s existing medical care provider tax – a 2% tax placed on physicians and other medical providers to fund many state programs that provide medical insurance Minnesotans statewide. The provider tax is already scheduled to sunset at the end of 2019, absent any legislative action to extend it.

Find more information on the Senate Republican budget here.

Snow Day Forgiveness Bill Heads to the Governor

School districts forced to use multiple snow days due to the winter weather this year are expected to receive some relief from the state’s regulatory requirements that limit the number of days a school district can miss. S.F. 1743 was passed by the House and Senate this week and heads to the Governor who is expected to sign the bill into law, exempting school districts from being required to make up lost days.

The bill was brought to the legislature after the harsh winter weather and heavy snowfall of 2019 required numerous school districts around the state to close more often than they typically do. Early on, as school districts faced difficult choices about closing due to inclement weather, the Governor indicated that school districts would not be punished for keeping kids safe. 

Senate Passes Bill to Prohibit Continued Line 3 Litigation

On Thursday, the Senate debated S.F. 1757, a bill that would prohibit the Department of Commerce from continuing a court appeal of the Enbridge Line 3 oil pipeline by withholding any legislative appropriations dedicated to the litigation costs of the appeal.

In a 34-30 vote, the Senate passed the bill after multiple hours of debate where Republicans argued the continued litigation of the pipeline was a waste of taxpayer money. Democrats responded with concerns about the separation of powers and that precluding such lawsuits infringed on the executive branch’s authority and set a bad precedent that could lead to yet another lawsuit where the Governor sues the Legislature.

The pipeline, running through northern Minnesota, remains a controversial topic after it received unanimous approval from the Public Utilities Commission last year and Governor Mark Dayton directed his Department of Commerce to appeal the decision in court. In one of his first controversial decisions, Governor Tim Walz announced in February that he would continue that appeals process.

Second Deadline is Today

Today is the second legislative deadline. The second deadline is for committees to act favorably on bills, or companions of bills, that met the first deadline in the other house. This is a significant cutoff point for policy bills that have not received a hearing in both houses, making it nearly impossible for unheard bills to continue to move this session. 

Important Upcoming Dates

Friday, April 12 — Committees must act favorably on major appropriation and finance bills.

April 13-April 22 — Legislative recess for Easter/Passover holidays

Wednesday, May 1 — Major appropriation and finance bills are to be passed by the respective bodies.

Monday, May 6 — Chairs of major appropriation and finance conference committees will receive the final budget targets.

Monday, May 13 — Conference committees must reach agreement and send conference committee reports to each body for final vote.

Monday, May 20‎ — Minnesota Legislature required to adjourn session.‎

Please reach out to any of the Larkin Hoffman Government Relations team members with any questions. 


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