The House and Senate Republican leaders on Friday unveiled their realigned budget targets as the clock ticks toward a May 22 constitutional deadline for completing legislative work.
Calling the numbers the halfway point between what leaders from each chamber wanted, Republicans said the joint $45.95 billion spending plan includes $1.15 billion in tax collection reductions and a $187 million spending reduction to government agencies, economic development funds and environmental programs.
The plan also includes spending $13.82 billion in health and human services — $2.05 billion above current levels — and a $1.14 billion increase in education spending.
The budget targets give a hard guideline to co-chairs of conference committees currently working to finalize spending bills. Both House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) said committee leaders have until the end of Monday to work out differences in their proposed legislation and get a report to Gov. Mark Dayton for review by Thursday.
“We’re on schedule,” Daudt said. “We’re ahead of schedule, I’d say.”
But DFLers, with a one-person minority in the Senate and 19 members short in the House, blasted the proposal, calling it a “disappointing” one that uses “phony” numbers. They say the spending plan doesn’t go far enough, prioritizing tax cuts over infrastructure and program investments.
“It’s extremely irresponsible,” House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) said about the tax proposal. “It would lead to a decade of deficits.”
Sen. Jeff Hayden (DFL-Mpls) emphasized the negative impact proposed spending reductions would have to the transportation budget. “It doesn’t reflect the things I’m hearing, you know, Minnesotans say. It doesn’t reflect how we get everyone into the economy. It doesn’t reflect our transit priorities.
“It is a disappointing day,” Hayden added later.
With targets in hand, conference committees can push forward looking for agreements between their omnibus bills. Although the governor and his staff have expressed concerns about the Republican proposals, legislative leaders remain steadfast in their priorities – and that will make for some interesting negotiations.
“We’re going to fight for what we believe in and so is the governor,” Gazelka said. “He rightly said that we have real and honest differences between us that we have to figure out how we’re going to work