None of that stopped Gov. Mark Dayton from appearing at the Capitol on Tuesday morning to offer a new budget that proposed an unapologetically large $45.8 billion plan full of funding for Dayton’s top priorities: preschool, conservation, a public option for health insurance and a gas tax increase.
“My budget would continue making the investments our state needs to create opportunity for every Minnesotan,” said Dayton, a Democrat. “It would deliver excellent educations for all our students, support job creation across our state and create cleaner, healthier futures for all Minnesotans.”
Overall, the proposal includes 9.6 percent more general fund spending than the $41.5 billion 2016-17 budget. That budget was about a 4.7 percent increase on the $39.6 billion 2014-15 budget.
Republicans, newly empowered after a taking over the state Senate in November’s elections, criticized the governor’s budget as excessive.
“Do I think 10 percent is too much? Yeah,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. “I probably think 5 percent is too much.”
Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said they share some “common themes” with Dayton, such as improving education and transportation. But Daudt said Republicans’ goal is to “keep spending as low as possible and still reinvest back in Minnesota through some meaningful tax relief.”
Dayton has two years remaining in his term, and his signature is needed for Minnesota’s budget to become law. If lawmakers and Dayton can’t agree on a budget by June 30, the state government will shut down.
He said Tuesday that he’s prepared to compromise. But Republicans, Dayton added, underestimate him at their peril.
“I’ve been underestimated politically all my life,” Dayton said. “Here I am.”
MAJOR NEW PROPOSALS
Several Dayton priorities get significant amounts of the $1.9 billion in proposed new spending, including education, transportation and social services:
Schools: Dayton wants $370 million to give annual 2 percent increases for public schools, and $75 million to fund preschool programs. Special-education programs would also get a $40 million bump.
Colleges: Higher education would get $318 million more, including $62 million for financial aid, $96.8 million for the University of Minnesota and $125 million for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities campuses.
Taxes: Dayton’s previously announced $280 million tax package includes significant cuts for child care and “working families” but not the major tax cuts on businesses or Social Security income that Republicans want.
Dayton also wants to make the state’s 2 percent medical provider tax permanent to pay for hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid expenses. Republicans waged a successful battle to have the tax expire in 2020, and Dayton acknowledged Tuesday that, “I don’t expect it to be enacted this session, but I think it’s important to put it on the table.”
Health insurance: Dayton’s budget includes $12 million to create a “public option” for health insurance: letting Minnesotans purchase unsubsidized MinnesotaCare coverage alongside existing private plans.
Social services: The governor wants a significant increase in several state programs that help low-income Minnesotans, including the $84 million for the Child Care Assistance program, $31 million for a program to teach parenting skills to young parents of at-risk children, and a range of smaller programs including $6 million for rental assistance to parents.
Technology: Rural broadband would get $60 million, while the state’s own antiquated IT systems would get $51 million for upgrades and $74 million specifically to boost cybersecurity.
Transportation: Dayton is standing by his 2015 transportation proposal, which includes $600 million in gas tax increases, $125 million in higher vehicle registration fees and about $400 million in metro-area sales tax increases to fund mass transit. Most of Dayton’s transportation plan would come from these new revenues, and not from the existing general fund budget. Republicans have repeatedly rejected most of this proposal, and particularly called the gas tax hike unacceptable.
OTHER PROPOSALS OF NOTE
The full budget is thousands of pages long and contains changes big and small to a wide range of state agencies and programs. Here are a few of the other items tucked inside the budget:
Criminal justice: Dayton requested $2.5 million to hire nine additional Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agents, plus funding for two more forensic scientists to speed up crime-scene investigations. He also wants $6 million to replace retiring prison employees and upgrade security cameras and lighting in state prisons.
Eyes in the sky: The budget includes $10 million to help buy two new mandatory state planes, and $5.75 million to buy a new State Patrol helicopter.
Outdoor fee hike: The Department of Natural Resources wants to raise several million dollars in new revenue by increasing fees for hunting and fishing permits. A resident annual fishing license would rise from $22 to $25, while a resident deer hunting license would go from $30 to $34, among about two dozen total fee bumps. Minnesotans would also pay more for outdoor recreation: fees for state parks, snowmobiling, cross country skiing and other outdoor activities would rise.
Census prep: Dayton wants $190,000 per year for the next four years to prepare for the upcoming 2020 U.S. Census.
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report.