The state of Minnesota has an $18 billion surplus. Democrats promised to give the money back. They broke that promise. They spent the $18 billion. And they’re raising taxes.
Democrats in control of the Minnesota Legislature plan big increases in spending and taxes
By Christopher Magan | email@example.com | Pioneer Press
The Minnesota Legislature is just days away from enacting a historic transformation of state government, adding $20 billion in spending to the next two-year budget to fund an unprecedented amount of new and expanded programs and services.
That broad expansion will require hundreds, if not more than a thousand, new state employees as well as ongoing costs that will entail billions in new tax revenues to support it. The next state budget is expected to hit $72 billion, up 38 percent from the current $52 billion two-year spending plan that expires in June.
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders have described their plans as a progressive vision for the future — a new “Minnesota Miracle” — that residents want. They plan to use the state’s $17.5 billion budget surplus to launch it.
There’s a variety of new and expanded social programs including paid family leave, expanded access to government-backed health care as well as billions in new money for public schools and human services programs.
There are also big policy changes, such as legalizing cannabis, protecting abortion rights, restoring voting rights to felons, allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses and stricter controls on guns.
Minnesota Republicans, now in the minority in both chambers for the first time in a decade, have little recourse to stop Democrats’ plans.
They’ve characterized DFLers as reckless, squandering the historic surplus on new spending while adding new taxes. GOP leaders continue to try to use what little leverage they have over a public infrastructure bill to extract concessions.
The Legislature is legally required to adjourn on May 22. Before then, lawmakers need to approve the next two-year budget and pass other changes to state laws or leave them until next year.
After winning a trifecta of state government control in November, DFLers quickly made it clear they had big plans for their newfound majority and the state’s historic $17.5 billion budget surplus. There were years of Democratic policy and spending priorities that had languished under politically divided government.
When the legislative session began Jan. 3, things moved quickly and haven’t let up.
“It’s probably unprecedented,” said Roger Moe, a former DFL senator and the longest serving Senate majority leader, who says the session is typically “a marathon, not a sprint.”
“They got it turned around this year,” Moe said. “It’s been a full-blast sprint since day one.”
Early on, Democrats quickly passed a number of high-profile bills — abortion-rights protections, driver’s licenses for immigrants without proper documentation, restoring voting rights for felons who are still on parole.
Late Friday, the Senate narrowly passed new gun-control measures including expanded background checks and a red flag law, both of which are expected to clear the House in the coming days.
Turning to the budget, DFL House and Senate leaders agreed with Gov. Tim Walz in late March to nearly $18 billion in new spending beyond the roughly $2 billion the state budget was expected to grow if lawmakers changed nothing. About $12 billion of it is ongoing, so the state has to find the revenue to cover the costs into the future.