ST. PAUL — Minnesota House Democrats have introduced a slew of budget bills, which mirror the signature issues they have pushed since lawmakers convened in January: COVID-19 recovery, education funding, child care and early education, paid sick time for workers and a tax hike on the state’s top earners.
How much of their wishlist makes it to Gov. Tim Walz’s desk for his signature will be determined by legislative Republicans, who control the state Senate.
Released on Monday, April 5, Democrats have set up the House for a busy week, with a major deadline for appropriation and finance bills as soon as Friday. If Minnesota’s divided Legislature does not agree to a state budget by July 1, they will force a state government shutdown.
In their tax bill, House Democrats are seeking to make structural changes to the state tax code, expanding the working family tax credit and creating a new 5th tier income tax rate of 11.5% for the state’s top earners ($1 million per household or $500,000 for a single filer).
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said in a Monday news conference that the proposed tax hike would make the state’s wealthiest “pay their fair share.” Even though the state is poised to see a $1.6 billion surplus, she said that money is one-time, while the new tax bracket would create ongoing revenue to fund schools, child care and more.
Hortman signaled confidence during Monday’s press conference that Democrats’ priorities have a shot in the divided Legislature, pointing to Democrats' successful negotiation to implement a provider tax in 2019 after Republicans swore they wouldn't raise taxes.
"What seems possible now is not necessarily what will be possible at the end of session when we’re trying to find common ground," Hortman said.
House Republicans were quick to attack Democrats' proposals, especially their taxes bill. In a written statement, Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said, "Democrats don't seem to understand that we have a $1.6 billion surplus and billions more coming from the federal government.”
“Fortunately, these tax hikes are dead on arrival in the Senate, and have no chance of passing this year,” the House Taxes Committee Republican lead said. “Democrats should give up on their obsession with taking money from families, and work with us to pass a bipartisan budget and full PPP relief for businesses."
Hortman also didn't hold back from throwing her own punches across the aisle, saying Republicans, themselves included in their own budget proposals cuts to state government that she said would be "absolutely a nonstarter."
"We have been very clear that we don't think cuts are appropriate," she said. "Nevertheless, the Minnesota Senate Republicans have (proposed) substantial cuts all across state government at a time when we are unquestionably relying on our state employees more than ever... This is not a time to be cutting state government."