House DFL budget framework spends big on education

House Speaker Melissa Hortman announces budget targets with Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, left, and Ways and Means Chair Lyndon Carlson. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Democrats in the Minnesota House are proposing to spend


 49.8 billion over the next two years, a $417 million increase over the current budget.*

House DFL leaders announced a set of budget targets Monday that will guide the debate in the remaining weeks of the 2019 legislative session. Lawmakers have a projected $1.05 budget surplus to work with. They must complete their work on a new two-year budget by their May 20 adjournment.

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House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said the budget will make honest investments to strengthen communities throughout the state.

“This budget will improve education opportunities, support our families and increase economic prosperity no matter where you live or what you look like,” Hortman said.

The proposed spending increases include $900 million for E-12 education, $305 million for higher education and $121 million for public safety. Some of the specific elements include a tuition freeze, health insurance discounts, gun safety measures and paid family leave. There is $635 million left unspent.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said the proposal pays for services Minnesotans want without resorting to any budget gimmicks.

“We will have great roads. We will have great schools. We will have a great, affordable health care system, and we will do it honestly, Winkler said. “We will have a great state budget.”

House Democrats support the 20 cent per gallon gas tax increase proposed by DFL Gov. Tim Walz. But other tax details remain sketchy. House tax chair Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said the tax bill proposal he will announce in two weeks will stress fairness.

“We know that the federal tax bill really benefited corporations and big businesses,” Marquart said. “We’re going to level that playing field on the state and help our senior citizens and our working families and our farmers.”

The House DFL budget framework also calls for a $1.6 billion bonding bill.

The House targets call for less spending in 2020 and 2021 than the $49.4 billion that Walz proposed. But

 The bonding bill proposal exceeds the $1.27 billion plan that the governor announced last month.

Senate Republicans are expected to announce their targets later in the week.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said Walz and House Democrats are in a contest to see who can tax and spend the most.

“They’re both spending more than we can afford at a pace that is simply unsustainable,” Gazelka said. “Later this week Senate Republicans will unveil a budget that uses the $1 billion surplus to take care of our priorities without raising taxes.”

*House Democrats released different numbers Tuesday from the ones they used Monday, and this post has been updated to reflect that.