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  • Writer's pictureWCMP

COLUMN: Sen. Rarick - "A Mid-Session Outlook"

Earlier this year, it was announced that Minnesota had a historic $17.5 billion surplus. This number was unprecedented, and it illuminated clear issues with our state’s tax structures. Typically a month after the forecast is released, budget targets then follow. These are the fiscal targets agreed upon by House and Senate leadership, and they offer the framework for what each Senate Committee has to work within when funding their final budget bills. While we expected Democrats to push for an increase in the budget, we didn’t expect it to be nearly as large of an expansion as it ended up being.

The budget targets that were released last week amounted to $17.9 billion in additional spending—this is on top of the current state budget of $52 billion. That means a 30% increase to the overall budget. Again, while we expected targets to incorporate a good amount of the surplus, we did not expect it to go over the original surplus number. Senate Republicans have been pushing for meaningful tax relief and tax reforms that help families across the state. Unfortunately, it seems as though the budget targets increase runaway government spending and do nothing to help the families that have been asking for tax relief to combat inflation. It seems as though Democrats are setting the standard for unsustainable spending, and I find that worrisome. Overall, I’m disappointed with what was released, but I’m hopeful we can work further on these issues in the coming weeks.

One of the largest budget targets is for the Taxes Committee, which amounts to $3 billion. I’m hopeful that this number will at least include meaningful tax relief measures. Education Finance is also seeing a sizeable budget target at $2.5 billion for 2023-2025. With such a large target, there’s no reason we can’t incorporate programs and measures that increase literacy, support students and parents, and get Minnesota’s education on the right track. Though I remain optimistic, I’m also painfully aware of the policies that have been pushed by Senate Democrats this year. Senate Republicans will remain committed to finding rational balances in these budget areas.

With March winding down and budget targets set, we are approaching the middle of Session and the end of legislative deadlines. The first and second deadlines have passed, and now we have the third deadline ahead of us. That means that any bills with financial implications will have to be heard in committee and acted on favorably. Once we are through deadlines, committee omnibus bills will then go to the House and Senate floors for discussion and a vote. Once each body has passed their version of the bill, a conference committee is established to work out the differences. That means a few members from the House and Senate will get together to match up the details of each version of the bill. Then that bill goes back to both the House and Senate floors for final votes. If these bills are successfully passed in each body, the final step is the Governor’s desk, and after receiving his signature, they then become law. Though this process makes the second half of session look a bit different compared to the first, there is still much work to be done before things are finalized.

With these budget targets, we can likely expect large and expensive omnibus bills to be hashed out on the House and Senate floors in the coming months. Senate Republicans will continue to work hard to ensure the needs of Minnesotans are met, and that there is a balance between the metro and rural communities.

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