2023 MN Legislative Leaders Share Their Priorities

Attorney at Law Magazine Minnesota invited Minnesota’s legislative leaders to share their priorities and outlook on the 2023 session on the eve of its opening. 

From MN Senate Majority Leader

Senator Kari DziedzicMinnesota voters sent a clear message in November when they re-elected Governor Walz, a DFL-House of Representatives, and also elected a new Senate DFL majority. Now, for the first time since 2013, there will be a DFL trifecta in Minnesota.

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As the newly elected Senate Majority Leader, I know my colleagues in the new majority take our leadership roles seriously. We are ready to get to work and make real progress on the issues we heard about across Minnesota.

Importantly, voters told us they are tired of gridlock, inaction and the lack of transparency. The DFL Senate looks forward to engaging with Minnesotans throughout the upcoming legislative session, giving citizens a seat at the table, and showing them that we will be a Senate that does the work.

Our work won’t simply begin when the legislature convenes on January 3. We’ve been talking to Minnesotans in their own communities for many months. We heard their concerns on education, healthcare and climate, and we are ready to act. The latest budget forecast gives us an opportunity to make meaningful, transformative improvements. We will work on a state budget that helps family budgets.

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We know that too many working families are facing rising costs, and we plan to help them afford their own lives. That means taking action to help them reduce costs in areas like housing, healthcare, childcare and energy.

Minnesotans also told us they were worried about politicians who vowed to take away their freedoms. Voters rejected those seeking to restrict or take away rights, and elected a DFL majority that will protect, defend and enshrine the rights and freedoms of Minnesotans. We’ll protect their right to vote, their right to make their own healthcare decisions, their right to join a labor union, their right to live in a safe community, and their right to live with dignity.

Last year, Republicans walked away from the legislative session with our work not done, despite a signed bi-partisan agreement. We invite our colleagues to join us in this work, but it will require compromise and a commitment to seeing things through. We are willing to do the work, and we will not walk away.

There is a lot of work to do in the upcoming legislative session, but our favorable budget situation presents a historic opportunity for Minnesota. There will be things we can move swiftly on, but creating a thoughtful, responsible budget will take time. We will use that time wisely.

In 2022, Minnesotans voted for change. As we look ahead to 2023, the Senate DFL majority is ready to get to work. We are ready to lead. Our priority will be to fight on behalf of the Minnesota values we all share, and we plan to deliver results.

In Nov. 2022, Senator Kari Dziedzic (DFL-Minneapolis) was elected by her colleagues as MN Senate Majority Leader. She was first elected to the State Senate in 2012 in a special election and has been reelected four times. She currently represents Senate District 60. She has held posts in the private sector, as well as with Hennepin County, the City of Minneapolis, and as a U.S. Senate staffer in Washington, D.C.

From MN Senate Minority Leader

Senator Mark JohnsonAs the new leader for the Senate Republican Caucus, I am looking forward to the upcoming session and working to improve the lives of Minnesotans. There is a lot of talk about what the DFL “trifecta” could do, but I expect the one-vote majority in the Senate will need to work with Republicans if they want to help Minnesotans. Balancing the budget, deciding what to do with the surplus, and prioritizing our state’s needs this session will require compromise and bipartisanship.

Minnesota’s constitutional requirement to balance the budget should keep some of the worst spending ideas off the table this year. Most of the $17.6 billion surplus is one-time money that should not be used for new spending programs. The surplus is a result of an overpayment from the taxpayers and giving the money back should be one of the first things we do. Eliminating the tax on Social Security remains a top priority for every senior in the state. Many Senate Democrats ran on this promise, and we will hold them accountable. The rising cost of inflation is still impacting grocery and energy bills. As a high-tax state, we should put every option on the table to help people afford their lives through tax reforms.

We also need to keep a close eye on spending. The current budget forecast projects $59 billion available in spending. In 2012, the last time the DFL had a trifecta, the budget forecast was $29 billion. That’s double the amount of money available to us in just 10 years! While capitol insiders breathe a sigh of relief it’s not a deficit, the taxpayers are holding their breath to get some relief. We passed the largest income tax cut in 20 years when we controlled the Senate, and the surplus still grew. There are ways to rein in spending and permanently cut taxes, without causing a deficit.

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their own community, no matter where they live, work or visit. Many Democrats also ran on supporting public safety. We put forth good options with bipartisan support to promote law enforcement careers and support the men and women who keep us safe every day. We think those ideas still have merit and will pursue bipartisan solutions to support public safety.

Too many businesses are being recruited to move to our neighboring states due to high taxes and delays from state agencies. We ought to welcome innovation and new businesses and help them get going, rather than force them to spend time and money on burdensome paperwork and permitting. The best schools in the country, expensive paid leave programs, and green energy won’t mean much if people don’t have a job to keep them in Minnesota.

The most important thing we can do as legislators is set up the next generation for success. With all the talk of “fully funding” education, we will be sure to include accountability and parents in education. Republicans increased student funding by historic amounts the last two budget cycles and students’ test scores are still dropping. We will propose and support ideas that put student learning and academic achievement first, and ensure every kid has the chance to succeed in the classroom.

Our caucus is 33 strong, and we have ideas to help families, workers, students and seniors continue to thrive here in Minnesota. The Senate Democrat Majority is slim and made big promises to the voters about their agenda. We will hold them accountable and help everyone in our state afford their lives, feel safe, and succeed.

Mark Johnson and his wife, Skyler, live in East Grand Forks with their three children. Johnson is a partner in a third-generation family business, Johnson Concrete Construction, and a partner in a small law firm. He was first elected to the Senate in 2016. He served as Deputy Majority Leader in 2021, and was elected to serve as Minority Leader beginning in 2023.

From MN House Majority Leader

Melissa HortmanIn the 2022 election, Minnesotans entrusted DFLers with full control of state government for the first time in nearly a decade. With a projected surplus of $17.6 billion and this historic trifecta, we have the opportunity to take bold action and make a positive difference in the lives of Minnesotans.

DFLers are focused on the issues Minnesotans across the state value and care about – investing in public education, making health care more affordable, and building an economy that works better for everyone. We also heard clearly in the election that Minnesotans want us to protect reproductive freedom, take action on climate change, address gun violence, and strengthen our democracy.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was extreme and reckless. Minnesotans support reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy, and House DFLers will move quickly to pass legislation to protect reproductive freedom early in the legislative session. We will ensure Minnesotans are legally entitled to make their own decisions about their health care.

DFLers are committed to significant increases in funding for our public schools, including addressing the special education cross subsidy, free school meals for all, investments in the general funding formula, and more. Minnesota used to be a national leader in education funding, but we’ve fallen behind and haven’t kept up with inflation since 2003. Substantial investments are needed to ensure our students have every opportunity to thrive.

If we want to keep growing our economy — and provide economic opportunity for all — the Legislature needs to put workers and families first. Too many Minnesotans are living paycheck to paycheck and are worried about their future. We will continue our efforts to reduce costs for families and improve economic security, including paid family and sick leave, affordable childcare, stable and secure housing that people can afford, and infrastructure investments.

Building an economy that works better for everyone must include making health care more affordable. DFLers will continue our efforts to implement a public option through a MinnesotaCare Buy-In and work to lower the costs of prescription drugs.

DFLers are committed to addressing the climate crisis that is the greatest threat to our future. We all have a responsibility to be part of the solution, and we can and must do more to grow our clean energy economy. We’re ready to take bold action, starting with putting our state on a path to 100% clean energy by 2040.

Minnesotans deserve to be safe at school, at work, at home, and in their communities. DFLers are dedicated to keeping people safe through commonsense measures like criminal background checks and red flag laws to keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. Suicide, homicide and other gun violence can be reduced if we act. These measures have passed in other states and have made a difference.

In this election, Minnesotans said loudly that they were tired of extremism, insurrectionists, violent political rhetoric, and those who would seek to undermine our democracy. Democracy works best when everyone has the opportunity to participate and make their voices heard. House DFLers will work to strengthen our democracy and continue to uphold Minnesota’s tradition of trusted elections with nation-leading participation rates.

DFLers care deeply about the challenges Minnesotans are facing. Minnesotans care about their families, neighbors, and communities — they want everyone to have the opportunity to succeed. We are ready to work hard, work together, and work quickly to meet their needs and to build a state that works better for everyone.

Melissa Hortman is the DFL Speaker of the House in the Minnesota House of Representatives and has represented a part of the northwest suburbs of Minneapolis since 2005. As a legislator, she has focused on energy, transportation, the environment and civil law. Rep. Hortman chaired the House Energy Committee from 2013-14 and chief-authored legislation that created Minnesota’s solar energy standard.

From MN House Minority Leader

Lisa DemuthThe start of a new legislative session always brings with it a sense of possibility. As lawmakers convene in St. Paul for what’s sure to be another busy year, it is my hope that legislators keep their focus on the priorities of Minnesotans and their families.

As the newly elected leader of the House Republican Caucus, my goal is to bring a collaborative approach to the table as we work with the new majorities in the House and Senate. That doesn’t mean we’ll agree on everything, and I have no doubt there will be fierce disagreements about the various bills being brought forward. We will draw sharp contrasts with the DFL majorities, but that won’t stop us from working together when it makes sense and is in the best interest of Minnesotans. Republicans are ready to bring our ideas to the table, offer concrete solutions, and do our best to bring the voices of our constituents to Saint Paul to be part of the conversation and debate.

The number one issue on the minds of all lawmakers is how we’ll approach our state’s record $17 billion budget surplus. Let’s be clear, a $17 billion budget surplus means that Minnesotans are being severely overtaxed. Never in our history has state government been more flush with cash. House Republicans fundamentally believe that this money belongs to you and every taxpayer in Minnesota and that it should be returned to its rightful place—your pocketbooks. As families continue to struggle with high inflation, it’s simply the right thing to do.

We can also once and for all get rid of the tax on social security benefits for our seniors. That’s an issue that Republicans and Democrats alike campaigned on during the last election and can be a bipartisan win that Minnesotans can celebrate. House Republicans will work to hold Democrats accountable, and make sure that together we deliver the social security relief that was promised to Minnesota seniors.

Our record budget surplus gives us the opportunity to come together on other areas of bipartisan agreement. Both parties also campaigned this fall on strengthening public safety — let’s use the sizable budget surplus to invest in our local law enforcement and give our police the resources they need to keep our communities safe.

We should invest in recruitment and retention programs for officers and help alleviate the shortage that many police departments are facing across the state. We should invest in tools for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that will make it easier to crack down on repeat carjackers, fentanyl traffickers and other criminals who are fueling our high crime rates. Let’s expand and build on successful community policing initiatives like the COP House in Saint Cloud that has helped bring community and law enforcement closer together while bringing down crime in the region.

Finally, we must do more this session to crack down on fraud in our government programs. The Feeding our Future fraud scandal exposed again the failures of state agencies to protect and respect Minnesotans’ tax dollars. There could be hundreds of millions — if not billions — more that we can clean up if we work together to strengthen program integrity and hold those who are defrauding Minnesota taxpayers accountable.

The last election should not be mistaken by the DFL as a blank check for every progressive wish list item. Narrow majorities in the House and Senate should be viewed as an opportunity for bipartisan collaboration — House Republicans are ready for the important work that lies ahead, and to fight for the ideas and priorities of our constituents.

Rep. Lisa Demuth serves as the House Minority Leader. She represents District 13A. This is her third term with the Minnesota House of Representatives.

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