Hello from St. Paul,
The 2022 legislative session wrapped yesterday. Its anti-climactic finish is easily described "not with a bang, but with a whimper". While a global set of targets were agreed upon last week that included $4 billion in tax spending, $4 billion in new spending, and $4 billion staying on the bottom line, conference committees couldn't come to consensus on how bills for the respective areas of government should be spent.
These conference committees work in groups of ten legislators to iron out details instead of the entire legislature. That should make the work easier, but these "supplemental" bills this year were so large given the $9 billion (and growing) surplus, time and incentive just weren't there. Had the use of omnibus bills been the exception instead of the rule this year, we would have had a different result.
The budget was set last year for the two-year cycle - meaning government programs will continue at the approved course from that until July 1, 2023. There isn't a need to approve these bills in order to avoid a shutdown, these were only supplemental budgets.
While there's never a risk of a state shutdown, other obligations are now held up from the lack of agreements. First, while the state is collecting more than it budgeted to spend, families are experiencing less cash in their pockets due to fuel north of $4 a gallon and inflation has found its way into nearly all expenses. Focused tax relief would have provided Minnesotans with the ability to better manage the price hikes they're facing.
No agreement also means that nursing homes and disability service workers across the state won't get the support they need to provide care to the elderly and most vulnerable in our state. We also had an opportunity for an infrastructure bill when delays only mean that projects will get more expensive and interest rates are only going higher.
Some legislative leaders have expressed interest in a special session when the bills do get agreed to so things that shouldn't wait for another year can get done. No word yet on when or if that will happen.
Bills over the last several weeks that have passed and have been or are expected to be signed by the Governor include:
- an extension of our reinsurance program, which significantly lowers health insurance premium rates for those Minnesotans who are forced to purchase it on the individual market
- stimulus checks to front-line workers who continued to help the sick during the early stages of the pandemic
-replenishing Minnesota’s unemployment insurance trust fund, which eliminated a 15% tax increase on local employers
-authorizing new funding for veterans and military affairs programs
-providing resources to help Minnesota better address avian influenza
Have a happy and safe Memorial Day this upcoming weekend!