House GOP rolls out updated budget plan: Differences with Dayton could spell chaotic session end
ST. PAUL — Minnesota House Republicans released a supplemental budget plan Thursday, April 12, that they say continues on the theme of tax cuts and "common sense" spending they set last year.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, called 2017: "the most productive legislative session in modern history." This year's proposal puts $107 million of the state's projected $329 million budget surplus toward tax breaks that will realign Minnesota's tax code with recent federal changes.
"These 2018 budget adjustments continue our strong commitment to Minnesota families through tax relief, roads and bridges, and school safety," Daudt said in a statement.
The GOP proposal amounts to a small revision of the state's current two-year, $46 billion operating budget. But it appears dramatically different from the supplemental budget Gov. Mark Dayton detailed a month ago.
The Democratic governor proposed changes to the state's tax code that would help pay for a tax break for about 2 million working families that is worth $319 million. Doing so would mean new revenue from things like reinstating recent tax breaks on tobacco and other sources.
With fewer than six weeks before the Republican-controlled Legislature has to conclude, stark differences on spending and taxes could lead to a messy end to the session.
Earlier this week, Dayton sent a letter to Republican leaders urging them to separate spending bills from policy measures. The governor has long opposed inserting controversial statutory changes into budgetary items.
"I will warn you again: Those efforts to ram controversial policy issues down my throat in budget bills, at the peril of vitally important appropriations, will not gain my signature," Dayton's letter said.
The House Republicans' proposal also would put $101 million into fixing roads and bridges across the state. School safety would see $30 million more in general fund spending and $50 million would be reserved for other priorities like combating elder abuse and the opioid drug crisis.
The budget outline includes nearly $9 million for capital investment expenses to fund as much as $825 million in borrowing for state infrastructure projects. Dayton wants a bonding bill almost twice that size.
The GOP spending plan also includes cutting $7 million in state spending through so-far-undefined "efficiencies." It would return $75 million of unspent health insurance premium rebates to the state's rainy day fund.
"We are taking a balanced approach with the budget surplus — finding efficiencies, investing in Minnesotans' priorities, and growing our reserves for a rainy day," said Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee. "In the coming weeks, we are confident that by working with the Senate and the governor that we can come to agreement on these broadly-supported, common-sense issues."
Knoblach's committee adopted the budget plan at a hearing Thursday evening, but not before Democrats unsuccessfully tried to increase spending on education and infrastructure projects.
"I am a bit disappointed with the budget that is before us," said Rep. Lyndon Carlson, DFL-Crystal.