The Potluck

2021 legislative session: Budget deficit with a dose of redistricting = fun!

By: - April 7, 2020 12:32 pm

The Minnesota State Capitol, pictured in the summer.

State budget officials are warning everyone who will listen that the deep freeze of the Minnesota economy means budget woes are coming.

“We are waiting for a tsunami of revenue to not show up,” state economist Laura Kalambokidis warned senators, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday.

If the metaphor was awkward, the point was still made. And it’s not just the lack of revenue. With hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they are going to rely on the state’s social safety net, signing up for rental assistance, food stamps, Medical Assistance and other programs. Revenue down, spending up.

As MPR reported Monday, Minnesota Management and Budget is conducting a second forecast this year — which is what lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz use to determine how much they can spend — due to the extraordinary circumstances.

And unlike the federal government, Minnesota is obligated to balance its books.

On the optimistic side, however, Minnesota has a healthy budget reserve. And recent federal rescue efforts mean help is on the way.

Still, the 2021 legislative session is likely to be dominated by the need to balance a budget that’s in deficit.

Which is tough enough. But lawmakers will also be fighting over how to redraw legislative and congressional maps following the 2020 census, with the metro region expected to gain substantial seats while greater Minnesota loses seats. If Minnesota loses a congressional seat, the infighting could be even more intense.

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J. Patrick Coolican
J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican is Editor-in-Chief of Minnesota Reformer. Previously, he was a Capitol reporter for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for five years, after a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan and time at the Las Vegas Sun, Seattle Times and a few other stops along the way. He lives in St. Paul with his wife and two young children