Hello from St. Paul,
The big news of the week is that the House majority’s budget bills have been approved in their committee of origin and are beginning to make their way to the House floor for full debates.
You’ll recall a few weeks ago that the governor, Senate majority leader, and the House speaker all agreed to a budget target of nearly $70 billion. This is a mammoth 35% increase in state spending when compared to our current budget, our state is spending $52 billion. It also spends the overwhelming majority of our $17 billion surplus (in reality it’s $20 billion, but a law was passed this year to change the way we calculate it) on state government programs.
From there, each of the House majority’s committee chairs is given its own committee budget target and told they can spend no more than that total. Those proposals began to show up on the House floor on Wednesday, as the Legacy and Higher Education funding proposals were debated. The rest will arrive in the next week or two.
What’s interesting about the committee budget bills is that you are able to see what the House majority truly prioritizes. For example, in their transportation finance bill, $194 million is allocated to create a high-speed train to Duluth. There is also around $3 billion in tax and fee increases as well. Meanwhile, it has minimal funding for Hwy 65 which is incredibly frustrating.
Now consider the catastrophe that nursing homes throughout the state are facing: 15 recent facility closures; 2,600 nursing home beds taken out of service, and a workforce shortage estimated at 20,000.
When you factor in that 1.3 million Minnesotans are over the age of 65, and 11,000 of them were turned away from long-term care settings in October, it’s not an exaggeration to call this a crisis.
The House majority’s response to this dilemma is a paltry $3.9 million in new funding for nursing homes statewide. I don’t understand their priorities at all.
The Minnesota Senate is following a similar budget path and also determining its budget priorities. The Senate proposals thus far have been considerably less radical than the House. Once the House and Senate approve their budget proposals, a conference committee made up of an equal number of representatives and senators will work through the differences in the House and Senate proposals and craft a new bill that can be approved in both legislative bodies. Once all of these proposals are approved, the state’s budget will be set for the next two years.
I will keep you updated on the more noteworthy budget bills in the days ahead. I hope you found this overview helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.
Have a good weekend,