Minnesota DFL legislative leaders laid out their broad legislative agenda Wednesday, one designed to be squarely focused on strengthening the middle class and balancing the state budget without fiscal gimmicks.

“We continue to face an economy, although recovering, where the middle class continues to be squeezed,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.

Democrats who now control both chambers offered few specifics, but said they now have an unprecedented chance to make changes that were blocked by Republicans the last two years.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, invited Republicans to participate in the budget negotiations, but he indicated he has little patience for partisan gridlock.

Bakk reacted harshly to Republicans who have said in recent days that the current $1.1 billion projected deficit is not that big of a deal since they beat back a much larger, $6 billion shortfall. He noted that the GOP’s solution relied heavily on borrowing from schools and selling bonds that will take two decades to repay.

“Cool your jets,” Bakk said to Republicans. “We don’t think you were all that successful and we don’t think Minnesotans thought you were all that successful.”

Republicans, who are unable to block DFL proposals on their own, stressed that they remain opposed to tax increases and higher government spending. But with Democrats in charge of the Legislature and the governor’s office, he said the final budget deal will likely include tax hikes.

“We think this is a time for prudence, a time for caution and not a time to blow out the budget with excessive spending,” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

Democrats are expected to roll out their first few bills in coming days. The bills unveiled by leaders are designed to set the tone of the session and give voters a sense of leaders’ priorities.

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