The 2018 legislative session, which is the second year of the biennial cycle, begins Tuesday, February 20. The second year is typically known as the time a large bonding bill is taken up, but often the legislature also takes up a small supplemental budget bill.
The 2017 session ended with a balanced budget but also much acrimony. The contentious ending to the 2017 regular and special sessions ultimately resulted in a court hearing after Gov. Mark Dayton used his line-item veto authority to remove funding for the House and Senate in an effort to bring the Republican-majority legislature back to the negotiating table. Republican leadership in the legislature filed suit against the governor, saying his action violated the separation of powers clause in the state constitution. Earlier this summer, a Ramsey County court agreed with the legislature and declared Gov. Dayton’s use of the line-item veto was unconstitutional. Gov. Dayton appealed the decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments late August.
The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Gov. Dayton’s line-item veto of the legislature’s appropriation is constitutional. The court also ruled that it does not have the inherent authority to order continued funding for the legislature so it ordered the governor and legislators to enter mediation to resolve the dispute. They were not able to reach a resolution and informed the court. In November, the court then ruled in favor of Gov. Dayton, stating he did have the constitutional authority to line-item veto the legislature’s budget. Much remains to be seen but recent comments by the governor indicate he would support legislation at the beginning of session to fund the legislature’s budget but would like a continued discussion on taxes, specifically the tobacco taxes.
Regardless, because of the acrimonious way session ended, all sides left frustrated and angry which likely will impact the tenor of the 2018 session. And, although the Minnesota Senate is not on the ballot in 2018, the governor’s seat and the entire House of Representatives will be up, likely making things even more political next session.
The office of Minnesota Management and Budget released the 2017 November Budget and Economic Forecast on December 5. Current projections show a deficit of $188 million for the current biennium, although this could grow to $302 million if the Legislature and the Governor agree to address the line item veto of the Legislature’s budget. For the 2020-21 biennia, the budget deficit is projected to be a $586 million deficit. These deficits are due to a reduced economic growth forecast and impacts of enacted legislation during the 2017 session. The February forecast will be the basis for legislative discussions but we expect to get a better sense of what this forecast means for the 2018 legislative session early in 2018.
Possible 2018 session issues
A few education issues we expect to come up this session include a proposal by TRA to address the shortfall in the TRA fund, continued discussion on early childhood including an evaluation by the Office of the Legislative Auditor’s of the state’s early learning system, review of the state’s ESSA plan as well as proposal to address student data privacy and data retention of school district records and communications.