One Week Until 2017 Legislative Session – What’s at Stake?

Lawmakers are gearing up for several battles in St. Paul

St. Paul, MN – The 2017 Legislative Session is one week away, and lawmakers are preparing for battle in several different arenas.

At the heart of the session is the legislative duty to pass a budget, a process that takes place every odd-numbered year. In 2015 lawmakers passed a $42 billion budget, with an additional $300 million added in a supplemental budget.

Minnesota currently has a projected $1.4 billion surplus. Session hasn’t started yet, but the budget surplus debate has already begun. Republicans, who hold the majority in the House and Senate, are calling for tax relief, but local unions are demanding the funds be spent elsewhere. AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Eliot Seide says state legislators “must resist the urge to blow the surplus on huge tax breaks for billionaires and giant corporations headquartered in the metro area.”

Democratic Governor Mark Dayton will release his budget in late January.

Lawmakers are also in disagreement over passing a bonding bill, which helps fund construction projects and needed maintenance. Bonding bills are supposed to be passed during even-numbered years, although recent legislatures have passed a bonding bill each year. However, a dispute in 2016 over transit funding killed the 2016 bonding bill. While no official numbers have been thrown out, House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in a recent forum that the bonding bill will likely “be a smaller one.”

Other legislative leaders are laying out their priorities as well. In a legislative forum the newly chosen Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R – 09) said Senate Republicans will focus on three main issues, stating, “We are going to focus on the main thing being the main thing. And that’s health care reform and relief, a transportation bill without a gas tax increase, and hopefully tax relief.”

Though Senator Gazelka hopes to address Minnesota’s healthcare problems, latest reports show Governor Dayton and Speaker Daudt are still in dispute over how to solve this issue.

While many lawmakers are focusing on the top three priorities laid out by Senator Gazelka, there are some smaller issues that will be fought over in 2017 as well, including a possible lift on the ban on Sunday liquor sales.

The legislative session begins Tuesday, January 3rd. Subscribe to Alpha News for complete coverage of the 2017 legislative session.

Julia Erynn