2017 Mid-Session Update

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Republicans show where their values lie:
underwhelming budget bills in favor of large tax cuts for corporations and the very wealthy

Senators and staff put in plenty of long hours in the two weeks leading up to the start of Easter/Passover break. The Senate dedicated time to passing all major budget bills in late March and early April. The discussions were at times contentious and floor debates in one case went until three in the morning on a bill many DFL senators found particularly egregious. Many of the bills passed fly in the face of Minnesota values of fairness, caring for vulnerable neighbors, and supporting Minnesota’s schools.

The Senate took up the $300 million education budget bill as one of its last major debates. The bill falls short of meeting the needs of Minnesota students at a time when the state is experiencing a time of prosperity with a projected $1.6 billion surplus. DFL senators objected – not only to the size of the bill, which is less than half of Governor Dayton’s $709 million education proposal – but also to the total lack of new funding for early education. The underwhelming funding in this bill will force schools to make the unenviable decision: seek to increase local levies or cut programs.

The Senate also dedicated a solid seven hours to debating the $900 million tax bill – a piece of legislation that prioritized major cuts for business property taxes, but did very little for the average middle class family. DFL senators were united in their opposition to a $35 million provision that creates tax credits for corporations and the very wealthy that fund scholarships for private schools in Minnesota.

The health and human services budget bill was also met with frustration by DFL senators who argue that Senate Republicans are cutting $335 million from health and human services and masking the severity of this cut through shifts and gimmicks in a time of surplus. Republicans are using one-time money for ongoing programs and shifting payments out into the future, making these cuts even more expensive in the future.

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The judiciary and higher education budget bills were likewise underwhelming. Both bills received scathing criticism from DFL senators – particularly the higher education bill, which short-changes students by not adequately funding core academic programs to maintain educational quality at campuses across the state. The Senate higher education bill is one third the size of what Governor Dayton recommended.

A particularly contentious floor debate took place after a long day of committee hearings, with session beginning at 7 p.m. Three major budget bills received a vote that night: jobs, state government, and environment. The state government debate grew heated as legislators debated the arbitrary 7.5% cuts to every single state agency and cybersecurity vulnerability. The night included a surprise amendment that passed with bipartisan support that works to protect Minnesotans’ online privacy rights. It was a timely amendment in reaction to Congress repealing online privacy rights and allowing Americans’ information to be sold to the highest bidder.

Debate on the environment bill drew some of the sharpest criticism, with debate happening from 1- 3 a.m. The bill puts Minnesota’s water quality in jeopardy by exempting hundreds of thousands of acres of land from the state’s buffer law.

The House and Senate agreement on reinsurance – a bill that spends $543 million to temporarily “fix” the health insurance individual market – was also passed, despite significant DFL opposition to the expensive one-time fix that doesn’t guarantee lower health insurance premiums.

The Senate also reconsidered the REAL ID bill several weeks after it failed on the Senate floor due to unnecessary, controversial immigration language. It passed with bipartisan support and will move next to a conference committee with members of the House of Representatives. Senators also voted on and approved a $400 million transportation bill. The money to fund this bill is shifted from the general fund – a move that is unsustainable. DFL senators who objected to the shift prefer to use the money to fund schools, senior services, and veterans. Transit funding is completely left out of the bill, which could stall any transit projects currently in the works including Southwest Light Rail. It could also mean significant cuts to existing bus line routes, leaving thousands of Minnesotans without a reliable method of transportation.

When senators return to the Capitol mid-April, conference committee work will begin to reconcile differences between the House and Senate language – and ensure the bills meet Governor Dayton’s standards for passage.

Screenshot 2017-04-06 16.43.35Click to download a PDF with the truth about the Republican Budget

Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing

Agriculture omnibus cuts, shifts resources for GOP priorities Governor Dayton invested $18 million in new money for agriculture, rural development, and housing. In comparison, Senate Republicans did not provide any ...

Capital Investment

Senate eager to bond, House has shown no interest Despite very little action occurring in the House and a bonding bill needing to originate there, the Senate Republicans have pressed ...


Commerce budget appropriations The Senate approved budget appropriations for the Department of Commerce as part of the omnibus jobs bill. The commerce and consumer protection portion of the bill ...


E-12 education omnibus bill underfunds Minnesota’s students The Senate Republican E-12 education omnibus bill provides a $300 million investment for Minnesota’s public school system, falling far short of ...


Energy and telecommunications finance bill The omnibus energy bill, which is now part of the omnibus jobs finance bill, includes biennial funding for the Commerce Department’s Division of Energy ...

Environment & Natural Resources

Omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill The bill appropriates biennial funding for the Pollution Control Agency, Department of Natural Resources, Metropolitan Council – Regional Parks, MN Conservation Corps, Board ...

Government & Veterans

State government omnibus budget bill The Senate passed the state government and elections omnibus bill, which spends a total of $996 million in 2018-2019. This is a $29 million reduction ...

Health & Human Services

HHS omnibus budget bill The Senate approved a bill to provide funding in FY 2018-19 for the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Health (MDH) as well ...

Higher Education

Higher education omnibus budget bill The Senate Republicans’ higher education budget provides a $100 million investment for Minnesota’s higher education system, falling far short of the Governor’s $318 million ...

Jobs & Labor

Jobs and labor highlights Early in session, Governor Dayton released his budget proposal that provided significant resources for jobs, economic development, and consumer protections. Many of these proposals targeted the ...


Omnibus judiciary and public safety finance bill The bill has a $59 million target. The Governor’s proposal recommended spending $265 million. The House target is about $112 million. The bill ...


Tax bill spends too much, delivers too little The Senate Republican tax bill passed in early April and contains many priorities that have received bipartisan support in the past. However, ...


Republicans use unstable funding for roads and bridges This bill maintains base funding for many of the agencies under the committee’s purview. The bill shifts about $400 million away from ...