Minnesota State Capitol (Photo: Kevin Featherly)
Here’s what we know so far about the judiciary-public safety budget numbers
UPDATE: 5:26 p.m., Friday, May 28: The Associated Press reported late Friday afternoon that lawmakers, who announced they would send out detailed budget spreadsheets today, have missed their deadline. That story here.
Shortly before adjourning on May 17, Minnesota House and Senate leaders and Gov. Tim Walz agreed to “global budget targets.” The three-way pact was promoted as a budget deal. But, in reality, it’s sort of a pre-deal deal.
See, the legislature closed out its constitutionally mandated adjournment date without really getting its work done.
No one panicked—the governor maintains COVID-19 emergency powers that must be reviewed by lawmakers once a month, anyway. So everyone knew the legislature would be getting together sometime in mid-June for a special session.
Think of it as a little like a teacher giving a promising but frustratingly lazy student extra time to complete a term paper. No harm, no foul.
Things would only become problematic if the various budget bills don’t get signed before the next fiscal year begins on July 1. If that happens, a partial or even complete government shutdown would result. No bueno.
But I don’t hear much fretting about that.
Primarily, that’s because the pre-deal deal is in place. So lawmakers and the governor all know roughly how much they’re going to spend and they’ve got a grace period in which to spend it.
Where they haven’t aligned, however, is on exactly how they’ll spend the money. So we could be in for some bruising debates in the coming weeks.
Expect those to get particularly sharp around police reform, where House Democrats—inflamed by the police killings of George Floyd, Daunte Wright and a long list of other Black men in Minnesota—are pushing a bevy of new police-accountability measures. Those include things like new no-knock warrant regulations, and restrictions on pulling drivers over for expired license-plate tabs.
The GOP-led Senate has accepted none of those ideas. I talk a little more about that later.
So there’s your narrative set up.
Below you’ll find the overall spending agreement (minus the tax bill, Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery replacement funds and other things that you can read about to your heart’s content elsewhere).
I’ve highlighted my main area of focus in the table below (Table 1).
“Public safety” here is shorthand for the combined public safety/judiciary budgets. Think cops, courts and corrections, which includes the Supreme Court, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Department of Human Rights, Office of Justice Programs and loads of other things.
What’s represented in the table is not the overall total for biennial government spending. Far from it. The Department of Corrections alone received almost $1.2 billion from all sources over the 2021-22 biennium—nearly equal to the $1.298 billion spending target for all agencies combined that you see represented in Table 1.
No, this is strictly about new spending—how much money the various state government agencies would receive in 2022-23 above what they collected last cycle.
Another caveat: The table’s first column makes it look like there is financing for three years stretching from 2021 to 2023. There is and there isn’t.
The legislature will be budgeting for FY2022-23. The extra year embedded in that column is there because a little extra money is being proposed to pad out shortfalls in some existing budgets. I can’t tell from these numbers you how much is being spent in FY2021, and the spreadsheets aren’t out yet. But I wouldn’t expect it to be substantial in the overall scheme of things.
Cops & courts
Still with me? Good!
So let’s focus a moment on that public safety/judiciary budget line. It’s clear there has been some compromise between Dems and GOPers here.
We don’t know yet precisely where the $105 million in new cop/court spending for 2022-23 will be directed. But we do know the Republican Senate has moved its initial offer up and the DFL-led House has ratcheted its expectations down.
The Senate’s original finance omnibus was built on a nominal new-spending target of $94.829 million over the biennium. Realistically, that was only about $74 million in actual agency spending, because $20 million was to be shaved off the top to replenish the state Disaster Assistance Contingency Account (DACA).
There’s a back story there: Republicans were mad that Gov. Walz last November directed about $12 million in DACA funds to Hennepin County to rebuild public infrastructure. This was after the civil disorder of May-June 2020. Republicans were aghast, complaining that the fund is intended only to aid in natural disaster recovery.
For some reason, Senate Finance Chair Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, insisted the money to replenish the account had to be pinched out of the public safety/judiciary budget, rather than generically from the state’s general fund. Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Chair Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said he was as confused as anyone by that decision, but was unable to change Rosen’s mind.
It was not immediately obvious if that same $20 million is still marked as an expense from the PubSafety/Judiciary budget division in the May 16 agreement.
So that takes care of the Senate. The previous House omnibus bill contained new spending totaling $167.463—some $68.657 million more than the GOP version.
Now that we know how much new spending there will be, we also know there is $62.463 million less money on tap than House Democrats were planning to spend in this sector. And there $10.171 million more than senators originally had in mind.
How much will be spent on DFL-priority police reform is unclear. Nor is it clear how many budget-neutral police accountability measures might be included in the final omnibus bill.
The best hints of what’s likely probably come from Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, who holds many of the key cards.
In a May 24 Facebook video, Gazelka said he opposes any “anti-police policies.” Instead, he has said, his focus is on combatting a year-long violent-crime spike in Minneapolis.
Still, as MPR reported Friday, Gazelka is open to some kind of police accountability. According to Tim Pugmire’s story at MPR.org, the majority leader said:
“There may be things in there that we will agree to. In fact, I think there will be some. But we’ll just have to let the process work. But my No. 1 priority right now is pushing to get more police in Minneapolis.”
So far, Gazelka has verbally ruled out only two specific ideas.
- Qualified immunity. This is the protection from civil liability that police and other government employees enjoy while performing their jobs, as long as they act in good faith. Progressives see police qualified immunity as a roadblock to genuine reform because the protections make it difficult to sue cops for police brutality or other misconduct. In the context of these negotiations, however, Gazelka’s opposition sets up something of a straw man. The DFL House has placed no qualified immunity provisions in its omnibus despite support from some influential members of the caucus.
- Civil oversight councils. This measure is present in the House omnibus. Democrats want to give local authorities the option to assemble citizen oversight panels, and to give them both subpoena power and the authority to recommend police discipline. Gazelka wants law enforcement to retain all that authority.
Everything else, one assumes, remains on the table.
Those and all other policy differences, across the board, must be sewn up by June 4 under the terms of the three-way global agreement signed by Walz, Gazelka and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park.
The governor is expected to call lawmakers back into special session around June 14.
Without diving into any more onerous detail, here’s the rest of leadership’s global agreement, including the tax plan—nearly $1 billion in state tax cuts; no accompanying tax hikes.
I will simply let Table 2 and Table 3 speak for themselves. Bon appétit.