House DFL outlines $52.5 billion budget blueprint

The governor, Senate GOP and House DFL have all outlined their budget priorities

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, address reporters on Oct. 14, 2020 ahead of a floor debate on a tax cuts and borrowing bill. Photo by Ricardo Lopez/Minnesota Reformer.

House Democratic-Farmer-Labor leaders on Tuesday outlined their budget priorities, setting a $52.5 billion blueprint that calls for new spending on schools, colleges, health and human services in the upcoming biennium. 

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said her caucus hopes to see priorities enacted that include paid family leave, as well as a public health insurance option. 

“We have a budget proposal here that reflects the needs of Minnesotans,” Hortman said. “It directs assistance and investment to those who need it the most, so that they can get through COVID-19.”

The House DFL plan includes $722 million in new spending on education; $323 million for health and human services; $120 million for higher education; and $50 million for early education. 

Overall, the House DFL budget plan would represent a 10% increase over the current two-year budget. 

Lawmakers have until May 17 to approve a new two-year budget for the fiscal years beginning July 1, or they risk going into legislative overtime. Without a budget deal before July 1, state government could shut down. 

The February budget forecast projects a $1.6 billion budget surplus, which does not yet take into account the $2.6 billion state government will receive from the federal American Rescue Plan Act. 

Hortman said lawmakers are still trying to assess how that federal funding will flow into various programs. She expects it will have an impact on the final budget approved by lawmakers. 

“The federal government’s assistance is like giving us jet fuel and sending us taking off and now we have to kind of repair the airplane in flight,” Hortman said. “Understanding how all that federal money will be used and how it’s directed while we’re putting together a $52 billion budget will be the biggest challenge of this session.”

Hortman also provided an update on a DFL proposal to create a $35 million account to pay for law enforcement mutual aid costs during the murder trial of ex-Minneapolis police officers. 

The DFL leader said the bill has stalled. Republicans do not have an appetite to approve the funding, she said, because of federal funding Minneapolis is set to receive under the federal stimulus package. 

Senate Republicans pointed out that they have approved their version of that legislation, which creates a $20 million fund whose reimbursements would be overseen by a panel of police chiefs and sheriffs.

“The Senate passed two bills to support law enforcement for emergency needs,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said in a statement. “In a historically slow start to the session, the House has failed to pass any bills to support law enforcement, including blocking action on a compromise bill last week.”

Gazelka said he encouraged the House to vote on the Senate’s law enforcement operations bill, as well as to approve legislation to exempt Paycheck Protection Plan loans and unemployment insurance benefits from state taxes.

State Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said on Tuesday that their still-developing tax plan will exempt PPP loans and unemployment benefits from state taxes, similar to what DFL Gov. Tim Walz has recently proposed.

The House DFL budget targets were the third, final budget blueprint necessary for the budget negotiations to move forward. Senate Republicans last week outlined a $51.9 billion budget while Walz’s budget tops out at $52.3 billion.

 

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.