The 2019 legislative session kicks off January 8 with a new DFL governor, a new DFL House majority, and Republicans leading the Senate. While there will always be intense emotions surrounding policy and politics, the Senate DFL is committed to keeping Minnesota on the right track and defending what DFLers have accomplished with Gov. Dayton.
State budget officials projected a $1.54 billion budgetary balance for the upcoming two-year budget cycle, but nearly half of this balance is only available for one-time spending and experts are predicting a slowing economy in the near future. It is more important now than ever to recognize that any new spending and tax cuts must be balanced. Protecting the state’s finances from future instability is the prudent choice as we anticipate slower economic growth ahead.
In our work setting a new two-year budget, Senate DFLers are committed to building the state all Minnesotans deserve with high-quality education, affordable and accessible health care, and increasing support for working families. Here are some of the many issues we expect to work on in 2019:
Bringing down the cost of health care: Many Senate DFLers believe one way to accomplish this is to allow Minnesotans to “buy in” to the existing MinnesotaCare program. MinnesotaCare is a successful bipartisan program created more than 20 years ago. Since 1992, MinnesotaCare has offered high-quality, lower-cost health coverage for more than 100,000 Minnesotans who meet income eligibility requirements. The MinnesotaCare Buy-In is a cost-effective solution because the program would be funded by the premiums of those who buy coverage and would require no ongoing costs for Minnesota taxpayers. This is a smart investment that would give our fellow Minnesotans more options for high-quality, affordable health care at clinics and hospitals across the state.
Paid family leave and affordable child care: Working families deserve a chance to succeed, and paid leave is a fair, commonsense solution to help Minnesota workers take care of themselves and their families. We must also find ways to make high-quality child care more affordable and accessible to all Minnesota families. The Senate DFL is hopeful businesses, families, and care providers will work together to find solutions to benefit all Minnesotans.
Tax conformity: State lawmakers historically have revised state tax law to align with federal policy, but Minnesota lawmakers were unable to reach a deal earlier this year to dovetail with the huge federal tax bill passed last year by President Trump and Congress. Since the state’s tax code does not align with federal codes, it will cause confusion come tax filing season. The Senate DFL is committed to passing a version of tax conformity that does not jeopardize long-term fiscal stability for the sake of short-term benefits.
Stable funding for transportation: Minnesota keeps falling further behind in providing stable investments in our roads, bridges, and transit systems. One-time money and bonding (borrowing) for projects are not sustainable – we need a long-term solution. Governor-elect Tim Walz and numerous legislators continue to express support for raising Minnesota’s gas tax to better address the state’s infrastructure needs; the gas tax was last increased in 2008. Republicans have been outspoken in their opposition to gas tax increases but as recently as 2015 indicated an interest in reforming tab fees to increase transportation revenue. On transit, a sales tax in the Twin Cities metro area will not only balance the structural deficit Metro Transit faces due to increased use of Metro Mobility services, but will also allow the system to expand to accommodate a growing population.
Looking ahead, we will begin the 2019 session by gathering information from state agencies and listening to the priorities of our constituents. DFL senators will fight for economic policies and programs that improve the lives and incomes for all Minnesotans – no matter where they live in the state. Our policies will not pit Minnesotans nor regions against one another. DFL senators welcome the opportunity to work with Governor-elect Walz, the House DFL majority, and Senate Republicans to pass a structurally balanced budget with fiscal stability.
Omnibus Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Bill The University of Minnesota Extension Office reported that, “After adjusting for inflation, Minnesota farms earned lowest median income in the past 23 years.” ... Read More
The Commerce Committee focused last session on consumer protections and fraud protection last session, passing bills that worked to prevent identity theft and make it easier for consumers to protect ... Read More
Commerce budget The governor’s budget proposal and the Senate Republicans’ budget bill that passed out of Finance Committee before break contrasted a stark difference in priorities. The Senate Republican bill ... Read More
The largest change this session was the rolling together of the E-12 education finance and policy committees. The committee increased to 12 members. Five DFL senators, including Chuck Wiger, Greg ... Read More
Because the budget bill was vetoed last session, no additional money was provided for schools, including school safety needs, special education, mental health and early education. The education finance chair ... Read More
The committee’s work last session to lift a moratorium on the residential property-assessed clean energy (PACE) program and add consumer protections was enacted, as was expanded eligibility for the state’s ... Read More
Although a few bills were enacted last session, the vast majority of the committee’s policy and funding work was vetoed or didn’t pass, including a wide-ranging environmental policy bill, numerous ... Read More
Andover landfill cleanup In mid-February, a bill passed and signed into law provides $10.3 million to begin cleanup of the state’s most polluted landfill. The closed Waste Disposal Engineering (WDE) ... Read More
Last session, several of the session’s biggest bipartisan priorities- addressing elder abuse, stopping the opioid epidemic, and preventing a significant cut to providers serving people with disabilities- were stymied when ... Read More
HHS BUDGET OVERVIEW The Senate Majority’s Health and Human Services Budget makes deep and unnecessary cuts to health care, child care, and disability services despite a substantial state surplus. The ... Read More
Higher education funding has been short-changed since Republicans took control of the legislature in 2017, with the final target at $210 million that year - well below the governor’s $318 ... Read More
Last session, the supplemental budget bill was vetoed by Governor Dayton because many proposals were included within the bill that he found objectionable. The issues that were left unresolved include ... Read More
Omnibus Jobs and Economic Growth Proposal Governor Walz appropriated $91 million over the base budget for areas under the jurisdiction of Jobs and Economic Growth Committee. A large portion of ... Read More
Last session, the Judiciary Committee focused its efforts on increasing penalties and changing laws pertaining to criminal sexual conduct. While the committee took notice of Governor Dayton’s supplemental budget priorities, ... Read More
Judiciary and Public Safety budget The Senate Republicans’ judiciary and public safety budget proposal falls far short of keeping Minnesotans, corrections officers, or incarcerated people safe and adequately funding the ... Read More
Last session, the two significant success stories were wide-scale pension reform with the bipartisan passage of the Omnibus Retirement Bill and approval of the public employee labor contracts. However, federal ... Read More
State Government Omnibus proposal Governor Walz recommended targeted resources for state government services, including $112 million in additional investments over base funding. His proposal provides $28 million in additional money ... Read More
Last session, the committee passed a small supplemental finance bill that included one-time funding for roads and bridges, along with several earmarked projects. A well-publicized effort to put a constitutional ... Read More
Omnibus transportation proposal Governor Walz proposed a comprehensive transportation funding package in his budget recommendations to ensure Minnesota has the resources to maintain the state’s infrastructure, expand capacity, and improve ... Read More
The Veterans and Military Affairs Committee focused last session on making small improvements with big impacts for veterans, including expanding use of the GI Bill, protecting the current benefits of ... Read More