Feb 12, 2024 - News

What to expect from the Minnesota Legislature this year

Illustration of the Minnesota State Capitol with lines radiating from it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

State legislators returning to St. Paul today for the 2024 session face two constraints that will feel relatable to many: time and money.

The big picture: Democrats still have full control of state government. But don't expect as much action — or spending — as last year, when lawmakers doled out a $17 billion surplus and passed dozens of big-ticket DFL priority bills.

State of play: The projected surplus is now around $2.4 billion — not a lot in the context of the state's $72 billion budget.

  • State economists are warning that spending the cash could lead to a "structural imbalance" in the next two-year budget cycle.

Plus: The second year of the biennium is shorter by design, leaving lawmakers just 14 weeks before the late May adjournment deadline.

  • "We have a lot that we want to get done for the people of Minnesota and we don't have as much time," Senate Majority Leader Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) told Axios. "That compresses everything."

What to expect: Borrowing for public construction projects, tweaks to a number of laws enacted last year, a limited supplemental budget bill, and debates on policy proposals that don't carry big costs.

  • The Senate tax chair and Gov. Tim Walz have already said they'll oppose any efforts to raise taxes.

What they're saying: "There are not resources available this year to turn it into another budget year," House Speaker Melissa Hortman told Axios of her message to her caucus.

  • They may start to explore spending proposals for the 2025 session — a budget year — but the focus will be looking at "policy things we can do this year."

Reality check: That expectation-setting won't stop lawmakers and advocacy groups from asking for more cash — or revenues. Entities from local governments to the University of Minnesota are already lining up with requests for more funding.

  • Some of the no-cost policy proposals are political hot potatoes that will drive plenty of debate, including within the DFL caucus.

Between the lines: It's an election year, and control of the state House — and, by extension, the DFL's trifecta — is on the line. Republicans need to flip just four seats to win a majority back.

  • That dynamic could dim prospects for DFL bills that could further endanger members in competitive seats.

What we're hearing: House Republican Leader Lisa Demuth said her caucus will take a firm no new spending stance— even if they don't have the votes to block most bills — and use "lots of material" from the last session to make their case that DFL policies will make life more expensive.

What we're watching: Whether Murphy can keep all 34 members of her caucus together to pass key bills through a one-vote majority in the Senate.

  • She said she told the caucus that she hopes her leadership is a continuation of the unifying approach taken by outgoing leader Kari Dziedzic last session. "We learned when we act together, we deliver strongly for the people of Minnesota," she said.

What's next: Legislators will get an update on the state's finances at the end of the month.

  • The first deadline for bills to pass committees comes less than a month later, on March 22.

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