Leaders react to new budget forecast, progress on two “landmark” bills


Majority leaders in the House and Senate expressed a feeling of optimism and accomplishment following a week that included news of a forecasted $1.16 billion decrease to the budget shortfall along with noted bipartisan progress on two bills that House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) called examples of “landmark” legislation.

At the same time, House and Senate minority leaders were more tepid with their analysis of the week’s events, noting they are still awaiting the Republican’s budget proposal.

Zellers said the news on Feb. 28 that the state’s forecasted budget deficit has decreased from $6.2 billion to $5.03 billion was “100 percent improved from what folks were expecting.”

“We were hoping for $500-600 million,” Zellers said. “To come in over $1 billion was great.”

Zellers pointed to Gov. Mark Dayton’s signing of HF1 as an example of a “generational change” in the environmental permit review process within the Department of Natural Resources. The new law speeds up the DNR’s review period of environmental impact statements.

On the education front, Zellers praised the collaboration of party leaders in both chambers for their conference committee work on HF63/ SF40* that allows for alternative paths to becoming a licensed teacher. The bill awaits gubernatorial action.

Both bills “are laying the groundwork for the next decade, two decades, even maybe three, down the road as to how our state is going to be positioned,” he said.

During the DFL press conference, Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Park) chose to focus on the House’s March 3 131-0 vote against Dayton’s proposed budget that she said was the majority party’s attempt to distract with a “magic trick.”

“It was a fake vote on a fake budget,” Hilstrom said. “But that doesn’t matter. The fundamental question that remains is ‘Where is the Republicans super-secret, property tax increasing, all cuts budget?'”

Zellers and Sen. Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) said they expect committees to begin releasing budget targets next week, but wouldn’t specify what day.