The Department of Minnesota Management and Budget announced today (Dec. 7) that the state has a $7.7 billion projected surplus. The $7.7 billion is in addition to roughly $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funds directed to Minnesota that have yet to be designated for a specific purpose.
Ewald at the Capitol
President Biden Visits Minnesota
President Joe Biden visited Minnesota this week for the first time since the 2020 election to highlight signing the $1.2 trillion infrastructure funding bill that recently passed Congress. The president also promoted his $1.75 trillion social and economic bill, referred to as the Build Back Better Act, which is currently being negotiated in the U.S. Senate.
Speaking to a small group at the Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount, Biden stressed the need for skilled workers and said schools like the technical college would benefit from passage of the Build Back Better Act and provide training for tomorrow’s workforce.
Capitol followers have expected the legislature to be back this fall to pass legislation for frontline COVID worker pay, but that has yet to come to fruition. However, it appears something may happen before the end of the year — as a major barrier has been removed.
Throughout the fall, the Senate majority held firm on its right to take up commissioner appointments during the special session. Gov. Walz was unlikely to call a special session over concerns the Senate might take up, and reject, the confirmation of Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. However, just before Thanksgiving, the Senate majority announced it is willing to set aside the issue so that talks on a special session can move forward.
The working group responsible for putting together a proposal on frontline COVID worker pay met throughout July and August but was unable to reach an agreement by their self-imposed September deadline over two major sticking points — who should be eligible and the size of the bonus. Instead, they put forward two proposals for further negotiation among the House, Senate and the governor. The legislature and the governor will need to find agreement on frontline worker pay for a special session to be called.
Remembering Doug Ewald
Ewald Consulting’s Government Relations Team offers our condolences to the Ewald family on the passing of Ewald Consulting’s founder, Douglas Ewald. Doug had an infectious personality, loving heart, and business savvy. He will be missed.
Frontline Worker Pay Working Group
The Frontline Worker Pay Working Group met for the final time and was unable to reach a compromise on which frontline workers should get pandemic pay bonus checks. The panel voted instead to send both a GOP plan and the DFL plan back to the full Legislature.
This week, Gov. Tim Walz announced that he and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan are running for re-election in the 2022 election. His campaign announcement focused on his response to COVID-19, overseeing the passage of police reform legislation, spending on education and child care, new renewable energy initiatives and investments in infrastructure.
A Republican has not been elected as governor in Minnesota since 2006, when Tim Pawlenty was reelected.
House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) has formally announced his candidacy for Hennepin County attorney. The Hennepin County attorney’s office includes 208 attorneys and has a current annual budget of $61.9 million. Winkler announced he will not step down from his role as Majority Leader for the House DFL Caucus while running.
Legislative Leadership News
Sen. Melisa López Franzen has been elected as the new Senate DFL Minority Leader following Sen. Susan Kent’s recent resignation from the role. Sen. López Franzen is an attorney from Edina. She is currently serving her third term in the Senate.
Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Chair Michelle Benson has announced her bid for governor in 2022. Benson is an accountant and fourth-term senator from Ham Lake.
“I am an unwavering conservative fighter who will prioritize public safety, empower parents in education, and lead an opportunity economy,” said Benson in a news release.
Minnesota Legislature at the State Fair
Each year, the Legislature takes part in the Minnesota State Fair. Both the Senate and the House have booths in the Education Building, organized by nonpartisan staff and assisted by partisan staff and legislators. The House booth is running its annual opinion poll, but the Senate has a comment card this year instead.
Frontline Worker Bonus Pay
The working group tasked with determining how $250 million will be distributed to frontline workers began meeting this week. The group consists of six members appointed by the legislature, and three by the governor. The money comes from the federal American Rescue Plan, and will be given to some of Minnesota’s estimated 924,000 frontline workers as bonuses. Not everyone will get bonuses, and the only stipulation going into negotiations is that long-term care workers must be included.
The working group will continue meeting and hearing testimony from different sectors of frontline workers until the Sept. 6 deadline.
Some New Laws
July 1 is an important date for new laws. If a bill contains an appropriation, its effective date is July 1. All other bills that do not name a specific start date become effective August 1. Some of the newest Minnesota laws are:
- HF2360: $110,000 in payouts for claims against the state. This is an annual practice by the Legislature. The joint House and Senate Claims Subcommittee is tasked with determining which claims against the state should be funded.
- SF1712: Portions of the Pensions and Retirement omnibus bill.
- SF440: Modifications in statute for tax-forfeited land sales.