The 2023 legislative session is progressing to its final stage with roughly one week left.
As we enter the final month of the legislative session, the steady and ambitious pace to make progress in our state government budget and policies has continued. Omnibus finance bills have made their way through committees and a significant number of them have now made it through their respective bodies and into conference committees, where differences between the House and Senate bills will be worked out before final passage and sending them to the Governor. Many omnibus policy bills will undergo the same process.
We are pleased to endorse the House Tax Bill, which aims to enhance our state tax code to better support working families, including MAPE members, and the work we do.
As the legislature returned from their Spring Break on Tuesday, April 11, they are entering the next phase of the legislative session. In this phase, large omnibus finance bills will be heard and amended in the Ways and Means Committee in the House and the Finance Committee in the Senate. They will then advance to the Floor of their respective bodies. When the bills passed off their respective bodies do not match, they will then head to conference committees to hammer out any differences before final passage.
Lobby Day attendees last week had a front row seat to see how the legislature continues at an incredibly fast pace this session.
In a stunning feat, the House, Senate and Governor agreed to universal committee spending targets in the third week of March, breaking any known record for earliest agreement on targets. This means the Speaker of the House, Majority Leader of the Senate and the Governor agreed to the amount they will spend in each major governmental budget area.
Energetic union chants ricocheted across the Capitol Rotunda as hundreds of MAPE members rallied for strong budgets to support a fair contract with Gov. Tim Walz and House Speaker Melissa Hortman last week. After the rally, MAPE members met with their legislators and urged them to support fully funding and staffing agencies and the work employees do daily, including a strong 2023-2025 contract.
As the legislature pushed past its first deadline, which demands that bills make it past their first hearing in order to continue on through the legislative process, MAPE continued to push our priorities and ensure member voices are heard.
One of the largest looming issues this year has been whether to exempt Social Security income from being taxed at the state level. A full exemption would mean over $1 billion hole in the biennial budget, meaning cuts to state agencies would surely be close behind.
Despite shutting down for a blizzard, there was progress on many key issues at the Capitol over the past two weeks.
Early last week, the Senate passed a bill that put inflation back into the forecast. As a consequence, and for the first time in 20 years, the budget forecast accounts for rising costs of goods when determining the outlook of Minnesota’s finances. This week’s budget forecast indicated though the economic outlook for the state has improved since the November forecast, improvements were offset by inflation. Still the February budget forecast showed a steady $17.5 billion surplus - $12.5 billion of which is carryover from the current fiscal year and $5 billion is a structural surplus.
State budget numbers released today show that Minnesota is on the right track to be able to fully fund state agencies and provide services already promised to Minnesotans. We remain hopeful that these budget forecast numbers will also modernize pay scales and recruitment and retention efforts for state workers providing those services.
MAPE has been closely following and urging passage of a number of bills during this 2023-2024 legislative biennium. Some of the recent highlights include Juneteenth, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), Paid Family Medical Leave and MOU Ratifications.
MAPE members testified before two Senate committees about the care they provide for
veterans and the importance of paid family and medical leave.
Gov. Walz’s budget recognizes what MAPE members know: we are overdue to fully fund state agencies. We are hopeful that this budget will modernize pay scales to keep up with inflation and competitively recruit and retain the best workforce for the people of Minnesota
MAPE members Laura Heezen and Brian MacNeill testified at the Senate State and Local Government and Veterans Committee field hearing with support from MAPE staff, Alex Erickson. Laura and Brian are both Behavioral Analysts at MVH Minneapolis who spoke to the Committee about the important impact of MAPE employees on veteran care, their desire to fund MDVA at the level needed to fully staff the Homes, and appropriate funding for building rehabilitation and repair. MDVA will be opening up three additional Veterans Homes in Summer 2023.
MAPE has long supported Driver’s Licenses for All, Paid Family and Medical Leave and Restore the vote, and these issues are moving quickly at the Capitol during the first three weeks of the 2023 legislative session.