2018 Legislative Session Recap
In even years the Minnesota Legislature is under no constitutional obligation to convene, but they typically meet to pass a bill to finance capital infrastructure, policy items, and perhaps a small budget bill. This year’s session began with a $323 million budget surplus and was expected to be a relatively quiet, outside of determining Minnesota’s response to the federal tax bill passed in late 2017.
How Session Closed
The 2018 MN legislative session closed with a flurry of action over the final hours of May 20 with a final product of three bills which encompass nearly all of the major policy priorities for the session.
On Wednesday, May 23, following through with his initial comments, Governor Dayton vetoed two of these large bills: the omnibus tax and supplemental budget proposals. Governor Dayton indicated he will decide on the bonding bill, which includes policy language related to affordable housing that he dislikes, by Friday, May 25.
Despite the fact that no action was required by the legislature this session, there will now be a great deal of finger pointing and disappointment about how little was accomplished during this session. Setting aside all political spin, the true losers are Minnesotans because our lawmakers were unable to take meaningful action on issues with bipartisan support like combating the opioid crisis and protecting older adults from abuse.
Three Big Bills
This bill was a response to one of the largest reforms to the federal tax code in decades and includes changes to how we count taxable income, how we calculate inflation, and tax rates for business and some individual tax brackets. This bill has now been vetoed twice, with the second version including $50 million in new money and the ability to reallocate $175 million of existing funds for emergency school funding in hopes to gain the governor’s signature. VETOED 5/23/18
This bill calls for the allocation of financing via bonds for capital infrastructure projects. The bonding bill passed with significant bipartisan support. However, noticeably absent from this year’s bonding bill are any funds for mass transit. AWAITING GOVERNOR'S ACTION
A 990 page bill which encompassed the spending and policy changes from nearly all committees in the legislature aside from taxes and capital infrastructure. This final version got rid of a portion of the 117 provisions that Governor Dayton found objectionable in the original bill, but ultimately was seen as unacceptable by the governor. VETOED 5/23/18
Wilder Lead Items
Homework Starts with Home: The legislature did not include new money for any housing programs in the supplemental budget bill which was vetoed. Homework Starts with Home was included in the governor’s budget request and the house omnibus budget bill, but was left out of the final conference bill. A solid level of bipartisan support remains for the program, but funding will need to be secured in 2019 for the initiative to continue.
Medicaid Reporting Requirements: Nationally, reporting requirements (work requirements) are taking hold in many states. Thanks to strong coalition work in Minnesota co-led by Wilder, the legislation did not advance through the state legislature this session. In just the two months from bill introduction to the end of session, the This is Medicaid coalition had organized over 150 organizations in opposition to the proposal. After grueling hearings in which there was very little outside public support, the bills did not make it to the finance committees or floor in either chamber. There is a chance that these provisions re-emerge in the future, but our work against this harmful legislation was a success.
Education Partnership Coalition: The final supplemental budget bill included policy language changes for the Education Partnership Coalition, which includes the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood. However, these changes were a part of the bill vetoed by Governor Dayton. These changes were non-essential to the operation of the individual sites and EPC will return next year hoping to pass them again.
Items of Interest in the Vetoed Supplemental Omnibus Bill
Child Care Assistance Program: The vetoed supplemental omnibus bill included policy changes that would help unlock federal funding and improve access for families experiencing homelessness.
7% Disability Waiver Rate Fix: The Disability Waiver Rate Setting framework for Minnesota is set up in a way that will trigger a 7% rate cut to for disability waiver services on July 1. The vetoed supplemental budget bill included a fix for this issue.
School-Linked Mental Health: The vetoed supplemental budget bill also included a $5 million per year increase to the base budget for school-linked mental health programs.
Vulnerable Adults and Elder Abuse: Reports from the Star Tribune and Office of the Legislative Auditor sparked significant conversation around elder abuse. The final legislative proposal included new funding and policy language related to this elder abuse. However, there is disagreement in the elder justice advocacy community about the benefit of the policies that were included in the vetoed bill. Many industry providers support the proposal, while consumer advocates such as AARP and Elder Law Justice believe the measure falls short of what is required.
All 134 House members and the Governor’s office will be on the November ballot (the Senate is not up for election). The legislature will re-convene on January 8, 2019 for a budget session, where they will be constitutionally mandated to pass a biennial budget (likely nearing $50 billion).
Dominic McQuerry is a Public Policy Manager at Wilder. Patrick Ness is Wilder's Director of Public Policy.