House DFL outlines major budget bills ahead of busy week of committee votes

    The Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul as the sun sets on Election Day, November 3, 2020. Photo by Tony Webster.

    House Democratic-Farmer-Labor leaders on Monday unveiled their major budget bills, outlining a series of proposals for education, workers and tax increases that form the DFL position in upcoming budget negotiations with Senate Republicans.

    The budget bills cover funding for schools, including preschool and 2% annual increases on the state’s general funding formula; state tax exemptions for Paycheck Protection Program loans for small businesses; and the creation of a new fifth tier tax bracket on high-earning Minnesotans.

    Lawmakers are returning this week and have a little over 40 days until they must approve a new two-year budget or risk going into legislative overtime. A budget must be approved by June 30 or most state government services will shut down. April 9 is the next deadline for committees to approve budget bills. 

    House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said she expects the budget bills will receive floor votes by mid April. 

    The House DFL has already unveiled a $52.5 billion budget blueprint, which 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. 

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

    Republicans have already promised to block any proposed tax increases, just as Democratic leaders have similarly promised to block cuts to state government proposed by the Senate GOP.  

    State Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, defended the creation of a proposed fifth tier tax bracket saying it is intended “to address the great disparities income-wise that this COVID-19 has brought.”

    Hortman said the DFL tax plan is an effort “to restore tax fairness.” She said that while the state is expecting billions of dollars in federal funding, many DFL proposals will require “ongoing progressive revenue” to stay viable going forward.

    State Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, blasted the tax increases.

    “Democrats don’t seem to understand that we have a $1.6 billion surplus and billions more coming from the federal government,” Davids said in a statement. “Democrats’ billion-dollar tax hike will hurt the very businesses who have struggled so much over the past year, and slow down hiring as our economy gets back on its feet. Fortunately, these tax hikes are dead on arrival in the Senate, and have no chance of passing this year.”

    The DFL budget bills also include the creation of new policies, including earned sick and safe time legislation. Another provision would give workers laid off during the pandemic a chance to get their jobs back once the employer starts rehiring. And a third would expand nursing and pregnancy accommodations for new moms.

    Meatpacking plant employees would also see new safeguards enacted under the Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act, which is intended to address health and safety concerns, many of which existed before COVID-19 and grew worse during the pandemic.

    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.