With the opening day ceremonies behind them, DFL House and Senate Leaders have shifted their attention to major challenges ahead.
At a meeting with reporters, House Speaker Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) outlined a list of priorities, including the early framework of a plan to eliminate a $1.1 billion state budget deficit.
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Amid anticipated revenue cuts and tax increases, the priorities also focus on the need to invest and grow the middle class.
“The middle class continues to be squeezed,” Thissen said.
He added that higher taxes on wealthy Minnesotans will be part of the upcoming discussion along with the tax code to ensure that it is transparent, fair and competitive. Despite limited funding, Thissen plans to have conversations concerning investments in higher education and early childhood as well.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) made sure not to downplay the budget challenges ahead. He argued that Republican’s rhetoric of success doesn’t properly reflect the state of the budget that will take more than two years to fix.
“I think the number is just too big,” he said. “The challenge is too big, I think, to be able to hand off to the next coming Legislature.”
However, in a contrast from the previous session when Republicans controlled the Legislature, Bakk said DFLers will avoid borrowing and participating in a government shutdown to balance the budget.
Following the DFL press conference, Republicans defended their management of the debt crisis. Despite a $6.2 billion budget deficit two years ago, Senate Minority Leader David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) said they did not increase taxes.
“We left the budget in better shape now than it was two years ago,” added Sen. Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville).
While DFLers now control the House, Senate and governor’s office, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) emphasized that there is plenty of room for Republicans to meet them in the middle.
“We’re not always going to agree,” she said. “In the end, I think Minnesotans will measure our success by the results we deliver.”