Election Wrap-Up and Legislative Update
Election Update. As per usual after somewhat surprising election results, pundits on all sides are still sifting through the various tallies, slicing and dicing them, and trying to construct a unified field theory as to how things turned out the way they did. Looking at the map of Minnesota, it appears the red got redder, the blue got bluer, and the purple took on a more bluish hue. The suburbs were the battleground and while the suburbs are not monolithic, they appear to be the reason that Democrats did as well as they did both in Minnesota and nationally. Even with that analysis, it’s important to remember–and those involved with SEE know this well–that there are many different kinds of suburbs and Republicans continued to run (and win big) in a number of outer-ring suburban areas.
The Minnesota statewide election results were somewhat unexpected. I spoke with a number of pollsters prior to the election and most thought that Governor Walz and Secretary of State Steve Simon would win but by closer margins than what they did in 2018 and that Attorney General Keith Ellison and State Auditor Julie Blaha would not be re-elected. As was the case in several states in 2022 (most notably Georgia and Pennsylvania) there was ticket-splitting as the results for the latter two races was much closer than it was for the Walz and Simon races. In other words, while there obviously was ticket-splitting, the Walz and Simon advantages were enough to pull up the rest of the DFL ticket.
The legislative results were also a bit surprising. The DFL now controls both houses of the legislature with a slim majority of 70-64 in the House and 34-33 in the Senate. This marks the first time that the DFL will have control of the Governor’s office and both houses of the legislature since 2013. Most–but not all–observers felt that while there was a decent chance the House would flip to the Republicans, very few believed that the Senate would flip to the DFL. Usually, when legislative election results are not as expected, one party was the beneficiary of winning all the close races. That really wasn’t the case this election season, as close races were pretty much split between the parties. The pattern that did emerge is that the Republicans won the close races in outstate Minnesota and the DFL won the close races in the metropolitan area.
What all of this means remains to be seen. The failure of the Legislature to come to agreement on a budget compromise last session leaves a huge budget surplus left on the table. We will know later this month (or early next month) the current state of the budget and how much of it is one-time money and how much is projected to be available throughout the rest of the biennium. It’s important to make that distinction because many of the expenditures and tax cuts being discussed would be on-going and with the possibility of greater economic uncertainty on the horizon, the available revenue may well diminish if the economy falls into a recession that would put a dent in the budget projection.
It is very difficult to figure out what is going on with the national economy. Inflation is high. The Federal Reserve is reacting by raising interest rates. But at the same time, job numbers are going up and corporate profits–while not universally strong–have outperformed what many of projected. This muddiness makes predicting revenue available for the out years a tricky proposition, but even with this uncertainty, there will be a large budget surplus available.
This should make things very interesting. The Governor had ambitious budget proposals in his first term, but most of those proposals hit a wall because of the divided Legislature. That will no longer be the case and we will have to wait and see how the new reality changes his approach, if it indeed does, and how the Legislature’s priorities coincide with the Governor’s.
Legislative Committee Structure and Chairs Named. The House and Senate DFL majorities wasted little time in putting together the committee structure and designating chairs for these committees. In the education-related committees, Senators Steve Cwodzinki (DFL-Eden Prairie) and Mary Kunesh (DFL-New Brighton) will chair the Senate Education Policy and Senate Education Finance Committees respectively. Representatives Cheryl Youakim (DFL-Hopkins) will chair the Education Finance Committee and Laurie Pryor (DFL-Minnetonka) will chair the Education Policy Committee in the House. The tax committee chairs with be Senator Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope) in the Senate and Representative Aisha Gomez (DFL-Minneapolis) in the House. The House also has a formal division devoted to property tax policy that will be chaired by Representative Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora).
Below is a link to the House committee structure:
While the Senate committees and chairs have been announced, I cannot find the official announcement to link.