On Tuesday, January 8, the Minnesota legislature convened to kick-off the 2019 legislative session. A day prior, former US congressman Tim Walz was inaugurated Minnesota’s 41st Governor at the Fitzgerald Theatre.
Gaveling in the 91st biennial session was Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman (DFL – Brooklyn Park), who will lead the House with a 75 to 59-seat majority. Joining her in leadership is returning legislator Ryan Winkler (DFL – Golden Valley), who was elected Majority Leader by the House DFL Caucus. Republican Representative Kurt Daudt (R - Crown) returns to lead the Republican House Caucus.
On the Senate side, Republicans maintain a 34 to 32-seat majority, with one vacancy due to Senator Tony Lourey’s (DFL – Kerrick) appointment as Commissioner of Health and Human Services (HHS). With the retirement of former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach (R – Paynesville), three-term Senator Jeremy Miller (R – Winona) takes over as President of the Senate. And, Senator Tom Bakk (DFL – Cook) returns to the same position as Senate Minority Leader.
In November, MMB released its economic forecast for fiscal years 2020-2021 with a project surplus of $1.544 billion. This included $419 million left on the bottom line from FY2018-2019. Additionally, the November economic forecast projected a budget surplus of $382 million in fiscal years 2022-2023. On top of all of that, statutory requirements based on the November forecast added another $491 million to Minnesota’s rainy day fund, bringing the state’s budget reserves to $2.075 billion dollars.
As this is a “budget year,” Governor Walz and a divided legislature will have to negotiate a two-year spending bill covering fiscal years 2020-2021. This state-operating budget must be in place by June 30, 2019 or face the possibility of a state shutdown. While a shutdown is unlikely, due to divided government the House DFL majority and Senate Republican major must reach a comprise before sending it to Governor Walz’s desk for approval.
Due to former Governor Dayton’s veto of last session’s omnibus tax bill, Minnesota did not align its tax code with the updated federal tax code passed in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. This means Governor Walz along with legislative leaders will have to find common ground in order to merge the two sets of tax codes and regulations. It is unlikely this will be achieved before individual and corporate taxpayers begin submitting 2018 returns to the IRS and Minnesota Department of Revenue.
As a candidate for governor, Tim Walz campaigned on increasing transportation and transit funding, including the possibility of raising the state’s gas tax. As a result, Governor Walz will have to work with legislators to address how best to go about funding Minnesota’s transportation needs. This will require the Governor and House DFLers to contend with a Senate Republican majority opposed to any increase in revenue for transportation funding.
Additional issues on the docket for the 2019 legislative session will be addressing Health Care and a potential buy-in option for Minnesota Care, DFL-sponsored bills regulating firearms, and discussions around marijuana legalization & decriminalization.
- January 7, 2019 – Governor Walz is inaugurated at the Fitzgerald Theatre
- January 8, 2019 – Legislative session starts
- February 19, 2019 – Governor’s budget recommendations released
- February 25 – 28 – Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) releases February economic forecast
- April 13 – 23 – Spring break
- May 20, 2019 – Session adjourns
If you have any questions about anything going on up at the capitol, don't be afraid to reach out to the LeadMN office! You can email Director of Government Relations Matt Gutsch at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.