Legislative leaders addressed the media Monday, May 23, following the adjournment of the Senate sine die. The budget framework agreement reached by Governor Tim Walz, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller and House Speaker Melissa Hortman was left unfilled, as lawmakers failed to pass supplemental funding for education, public safety, the environment, public safety and state agencies. In addition, the major tax relief measure hailed by the tax chairs earlier in the week did not reach either House or Senate floors for a final vote.
Governor Walz said that negotiations throughout Sunday were productive, and he believed legislators will work to finalize the budget areas in the coming days.
Senate and House Tax Chairs Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, and Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, celebrated their agreement on a tax bill at a State Capitol press conference Saturday, May 21. Minnesota currently has a $9.2 billion surplus, and the tax bill represents the largest portion of a supplemental spending framework agreement between Governor Tim Walz and legislative leaders.
If passed, the $3.9 billion tax bill would lower the first tier income tax rate by 0.25 percent, saving an average family $825 per year, remove state taxes on social security benefits and provide targeted property tax reductions.
“It is our duty to get these resources back into the hands of Minnesotans, to help them better afford their lives during this time of such skyrocketing inflation,” said Senator Nelson. “This is an historic tax bill,” said Representative Marquart. “We have, in this bill, the largest tax cuts in the history of this state,” he stated.
Earlier this week, House Speaker Melissa Hortman said that the tax bill is only one part of the framework agreement. Conference committees continue to work on omnibus bills in education, public safety, health and human services, state government, transportation, jobs and the environment. Because a tax bill must originate in the House, the DFL-led House is expected to hold it until deals are reached with the Republican-led Senate in other budget areas.
The deadline for passing bills in the current legislative session is 11:59 p.m. Sunday, May 22.
The Senate gave its final approval Friday, May 20, to the omnibus liquor bill, which contains a provision allowing larger craft beer producers to sell growlers.
Specifically, the measure, sponsored by Commerce Chair Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, allows brewers that make up to 150,000 barrels annually to sell 128 ounces of beer daily per customer. Currently, only smaller producers of 20,000 annual barrels are allowed to sell to customers.
The bill provides various local sales provisions, including one that allows onsale liquor establishments to remain open later during the World Cup Soccer competition.
Senate DFLers, joined by Attorney General Keith Ellison, called a press conference Friday, May 20, to highlight their successful effort to bring an anti-price gouging bill to the Senate floor for a vote. SF 965/HF 844, a bill to prohibit price gouging during abnormal market disruptions, was moved to General Orders for future consideration. The House passed the bill last year.
Using the national infant formula shortage as an example ripe for price gouging, Senator Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, the bill’s sponsor, said, “We are seeing people preying on those parents, those families, in a tragic moment of need, and trying to profit off that tragedy.” She said the measure would provide definitions of and penalties for price gouging behavior, thereby allowing the Office of the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute.
Attorney General Keith Ellison said that when there is no justification for rising prices for necessities like food, medicine, gas and baby formula, profiteering is likely the cause. According to Ellison, Minnesota is one of thirteen states that does not have anti-price gouging laws in statute. “We’re asking to join the rest of the country here,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue at all,” he added.
Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller and Assistant Majority Leader Karin Housley addressed the State Capitol Press Corps Thursday, May 19, to provide an update on the pending budget bills.
According to Miller, the tax conferees are close to an agreement, having focused on income, property and social security tax relief. Senator Housley announced that an agreement had been reached on the omnibus liquor bill, which contains a provision allowing larger beer producers to sell growlers to their customers.
Major budget disagreements remain in the areas of public safety, education and health and human services.
The legislature has until midnight on May 22 to pass legislation. The session ends Monday, May 23.