The new DFL-controlled legislature is off to a fast start in the 2023 legislative session. Legislators are wasting little time as they return to St. Paul for the first fully in-person session since 2020. With buzzwords like reproductive rights, firearm safety, public option, and paid family and medical leave echoing through its halls, the Capitol is once again a beehive of activity.
The House seems to be moving faster than the Senate this year. This is mostly because (1) the House has already passed many of the same bills in previous sessions and (2) their 4 vote DFL majority towers over the Senate DFL’s slim single vote margin. Where the experienced House leadership can push through progressive policies with members generally falling in line, the new Senate leadership needs to check with every member before moving a bill. If any one member is not on board, it is enough to halt a bill in its tracks.
Counting member votes takes time, but the Senate’s deliberate pace will need to quicken as committee deadlines are fast approaching. All bills on track to passing must be heard in at least one committee in either body by March 10 and must be moving in both bodies by March 24.
By those dates, we will have an updated state budget forecast from Minnesota’s Management and Budget, projected to be released on Feb. 27. In December, the surplus was a whopping $17.6 billion. If those numbers are reflected in this month’s forecast, we can likely expect some large figures when budget targets are released.
In his legislative proposal, Gov. Tim Walz pushed for a significant state budget increase, from approximately $50 billion biannual budget to about $65 billion for FY 2024, ’25. The plan would pour new funding into education, children, and families. In total, about $12 billion of the proposal is dedicated to items such as expanded pre-K, early learning scholarships, mental and behavioral health, a new child tax credit program, an increase in childcare assistance rates, and more. The proposal also creates a new Children, Youth, and Families Department and gives a sizeable bump to the general education funding formula. Referencing his time as a teacher, Walz declared he’s made it his “mission to make Minnesota the best state in the country for kids.”
There’s still a long road ahead this session, and with DFLers in the driver’s seat, we can expect a trunkful of spending initiatives and progressive policies. How much and which ones, however, will be determined in the coming months.