Politics

They’re back: What Minnesota’s lawmakers will try to get done this year

Minnesota lawmakers return to work Tuesday in the recently restored state Capitol building.

There’s a lot on the to-do list for the 2017 Legislature, but there’s really only one thing they have to do before the session ends on May 22: Pass a two-year budget. If they don’t, the state government will shut down.

With a Democrat as governor and Republicans controlling the House and Senate, that could be a little tricky.

The last time Minnesota had this makeup in the Legislature – back in 2011 – the government shut down because they couldn’t come up with a budget everyone could agree on. It marked the longest government shutdown in state history. The Pioneer Press points out that this time around lawmakers are starting with a $1.4 billion surplus instead of a deficit like they had in 2011, which “should make spending decisions less painful, but still hard.”

“I think it will be a difficult session because we have very stark differences,” Gov. Mark Dayton said, according to the West Central Tribune. “My approach is to stake out what I think is best for Minnesota, and we will see at the end of session if we can reach the agreements that we didn’t make in 2011, which was catastrophic with the shutdown.”

Dayton has to turn in his budget proposal by Jan. 24, MPR News says. He’s said he doesn’t want to give back the entire thing as tax cuts, like Republicans have suggested.

Besides that, lawmakers have said little publicly about what they want this year’s budget to look like, the West Central Tribune adds.

What else could get done?

Lawmakers have a long wish list of what they’d like to see get passed this year. One of the first items they expect to discuss is MNsure – the rising costs, and how to fix it.

Both sides want to provide some relief Minnesotans whose insurance premiums through MNsure went up, but Republicans also want to overhaul the health insurance exchange – although they haven’t said much about how they’ll fix the program, the Pioneer Press reported.

Here are some of the big items that will likely get brought up:

  • Funding for transportation fixes. Both parties agree it needs to happen, but after years of talking about it, they still haven’t agreed how to pay for it.
  • Cutting taxes. A wording error in the bill that lawmakers passed last year prompted Dayton to veto the bill.
  • Sunday liquor sales. Daudt said it would pass the House this year, and some lawmakers who had been against it in the past are warming up to the idea.
  • Early childhood education funding. It’s on Dayton’s wish list every year, and it’ll likely be on it again.
  • A bonding bill. Lawmakers didn’t pass one last year, leaving $1 billion of projects unfunded. Dayton wants to introduce a new one this year, but Daudt has said Republicans aren’t too keen on that idea and may delay it, the Pioneer Press says.
  • Prohibiting cities from setting their own workplace standards. Recently, Minneapolis and St. Paul have set minimum wage and sick time policies, but some lawmakers are looking to pass a state law that would prevent that, the Star Tribune reports.

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