The budget showdown between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature is edging toward a flash point.
At around 2:30 a.m. Thursday, the Minnesota House approved a $10.9 billion health and human services budget that Republicans say will usher in long overdue reforms. The House approved the measure 69-63. A half hour later, the Senate approved its final budget bill of the day, the K-12 education package. The vote was 37-26.
The GOP budget bills are likely to start landing on the governor’s desk as early as Thursday.
Dayton has significant problems with the GOP budget plan, and is expected to veto the entire package. Only the relatively puny agriculture budget bill has been signed into law.
If Dayton vetoes the bills, it leaves little time for legislators to renegotiate their budget outline by Monday’s legislative deadline. A special session and a possible government shutdown could be required to force a deal.
The health and human services budget – which gobbles up one-third of the budget -- is likely to be a major sticking point.
Although $1.6 billion below projected spending for the next two years, the bill increases state spending above current levels by $500 million, or 8 percent. Republicans said the proposal takes a big step to curb runaway health care spending.
“This is sustainable,” said bill sponsor, Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka. “But if we aren’t careful, we aren’t going to be able to pay for the people we profess to care so much about.”
Republicans would rather target low-income Minnesotans than accept Dayton's tax plan and ensure those who are covered now retain their coverage after the budget deal, critics said.
“In voting for this, Republicans are asking our most vulnerable communities to bear significant, life-changing cuts and financial burdens instead of asking corporations and the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans to pay their fair share,” said state Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL - Duluth.
Staff writer Warren Wolfe contributed to this report.