The DFL trifecta-led Legislature made myriad changes across a spectrum of state topics in 2023.
Paid Family and Medical Leave. Abortion rights. Free breakfast and lunch for all K-12 students. A $260 one-time rebate check to low- and middle-income Minnesotans. Record investments in housing. Recreational cannabis. Driver’s licenses for all. Gas and sales tax increases for transportation purposes.
To do so, much of a projected record $17.5 billion budget surplus was needed as the state budget grew to an all-time high of $72 billion for the current biennium, which ends June 30, 2025.
As for 2024?
“We’ll continue, as we did last year, focusing on the things (Minnesotans) care about the most which is strong public education, affordable health care and then economic security for their families,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said in a Wednesday interview.
“What that means this year is really investing in the state’s infrastructure, so the state’s borrowing bill will be the biggest order of business.” Examples she cited include higher education facilities, wastewater treatment, and local roads and bridges.
A pair of 2023 laws resulted in a $2.6 billion package of capital investments, including $851 million from the General Fund, to improve assets owned by the state, local governments, and nonprofit community organizations.
Yet plenty of wants remain.
“Given that we made a $2.6 billion investment last year in the state infrastructure we might be closer to $830 million,” Hortman said.
Across the aisle
House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring) expects her caucus to focus on holding the majority accountable for what was passed in 2023.
“You’ll be hearing from us about the surplus that was spent through, taxes and fees increasing that state budget, and the concerns we have going forward,” she said.
Hold your horses
A sentiment heading into the 2024 session seems to be folks looking for more funds should temper their expectations.
The November 2023 Budget and Economic Forecast indicates the state's expected budget surplus is now $2.4 billion for the current fiscal biennium with a structural imbalance of just over $2.3 billion in the 2026-27 biennium.
“If you accommodate inflation, it’s going to eat up a lot of what’s in that short-range surplus and make that deficit in the next biennium even steeper,” Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) said in a recent member interview.
Cash or no cash, want to bet a plethora of policy could be on the docket?
Sports gambling? Authorizing medical aid in dying medication in certain circumstances? School resource officer language updates? Prohibiting state and local law enforcement officials from acting to enforce federal civil immigration law? A constitutional amendment to further ensure equal rights?
Legislators could do all or they could do nothing. And the action or inaction will occur in an election year for all 134 House seats. Walz and the Senate are not on the ballot.
Nor will more than a dozen current members — from freshmen to Rep. Gene Pelowski, Jr. (DFL-Winona), now in his 19th term — who have announced they won’t be back in 2025. Will more consider 2024 their swan song?
[MORE: List of members not seeking re-election in 2024]
Earth moving, hole digging and other construction activity as part of the State Office Building renovation/expansion is well underway. That includes elimination of the tunnel between the building and the State Capitol.
And committee hearings previously held in 120 State Capitol will be in the basement of the State Office Building.
And Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), who spent four years as House speaker, plans to resign Sunday. A special election has yet to be called for the District 27B seat.
Members share their thoughts
Nonpartisan House Public Information Services has spoken to some members as we head into the 2024 session. Here’s a sampling of what they’ve said:
Rep. Dave Pinto (DFL-St. Paul) on following up a successful 2023: “One of the things we need to do is make sure those investments are implemented well and that we’re providing the support and oversight necessary for that. … The other piece is to identify where there are still remaining gaps and work to address those gaps in the coming session.” [Watch his full interview]
Rep. Nolan West (R-Blaine) on a bonding bill: “I would love if the bonding bill was just about things Minnesotans actually need like wastewater infrastructure, roads, and bridges. But inevitably it starts funding (things) like comedy centers, ice arenas, swimming pools. These are nice things, but these aren’t what we should be bonding for as a state. Assuming it’s as it normally is, I think it’s going to be pretty difficult to get anything passed this session. … If it was entirely infrastructure based, we could solve a lot of problems.” [Watch his full interview]
[WATCH: All 2024 member interviews]
There are just two committee deadlines for the 2024 session:
Per Rule 2.03, the deadlines do not apply to the House Capital Investment Committee; the House Taxes, Ways and Means, or Rules and Legislative Administration committees; nor the Senate Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes or Rules and Administration committees.
A trio of short breaks are planned for religious purposes:
Read, Watch, Listen
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