Over the last few weeks, Senate Republicans have been passing their priority omnibus budget bills out of the Finance Committee. When accounting for their tax bill ($3.384 billion in FY 23) Senate Republicans spend $6.268 billion of the $9.253 billion surplus leaving a little less than $3 billion on the bottom line. A positive balance of $3 billion is needed to pay for their spending in FY 2024-2025, where they spend $8.127 billion; approximately $5 billion in FY 2024-25 is for their tax bill. Senate Republicans spend a total of $14.414 billion over three years, leaving $873,463 on the bottom line. While there is bipartisan agreement for tax cuts, there is no investment in our schools despite their warning of shortfalls and layoffs across the state.
These bills will be negotiated in conference committee between the House, Senate, and Governor Walz in the coming weeks. In a recent press availability, Governor Walz has indicated he will not call a special session if the legislature does find a budget agreement by the last day of session.
Below are brief summaries of the budget areas that passed the Senate Finance Committee this week:
Jobs and Economic Development
The job provisions contained in the omnibus jobs, higher education, and energy omnibus bill contain very little investment in Minnesota’s workforce. It does nothing relative to the need in helping employers secure the employees they need to meet their demands. Policy included in the omnibus bill would also reduce the penalty on employers for stealing wages from their employees. (SF 4091)
The omnibus housing bill contains $50 million in additional investment. The money will be used for workforce housing, homeownership assistance, and money to address the housing disparity gap. However, the proposal contains language nullifying the rent stabilization vote in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The language nullifies the vote of over 100,000 Minnesotans. (SF 4019)
The Senate Finance Committee this week heard and passed a measly supplemental education budget bill that is little more than a single budget request for literacy training. The proposal fails to address the multitude of challenges our school districts face and falls far short of what our students, parents, teachers, and schools require.
With a $9.2 billion budget surplus, we should be investing in our youngest learners, addressing student mental health needs, paying the full cost of special education for districts, and tackling the teacher shortage. Instead, the education supplement spends 0.3% of the surplus on a privately held literacy instructional program.
DFL senators on the Finance Committee fought to bolster the resources being provided to schools—especially considering the increased inflationary pressures they are facing—but Senate Republicans refused to appropriate any of the surplus to our students. The Minnesota Senate should be prioritizing our students instead of spending eight times more on tax cuts for the rich than we do on our schools. (SF 4113)
Health and Human Services
The Senate Health and Human Services finance and policy bill passed the Finance committee this week and is headed to the floor. Spending over $850 million in the next three years, this bill concentrates on the disability service and long-term care sectors after months of committee hearings discussing the crisis level of workforce shortages in these areas.
Rate increases in this bill are intended to allow providers, who have been struggling to recruit and retain workers for years, to increase wages for their employees. Shortages in direct care staff have worsened during the pandemic, and individuals are not able to get the care they need in their own homes or in other settings. Senate DFLers are supportive of rate increases for our aging and disability service sectors, putting workers on the path to higher wages. But we can’t stop here. Earning a living wage for this work is crucial, and so is making sure these workers have basic benefits like childcare, paid family leave, and earned sick time so they can stay in these job fields long term.
Senate DFLers attempted to further improve the bill in Finance, offering amendments to increase access to childcare assistance, food support, youth homelessness resources, and funding to address the growing issue Long covid will present in our state. Senate Republicans voted down each of these amendments. Senate DFLers will continue to fight to make sure these critical areas also receive the funding they need as the bill moves to the floor. (SF 4410)