The 2024 legislative session so far: Possible welfare expansion

2023 was a big year for welfare expansion in Minnesota. Despite Health and Human Services (HH) already making up 30 percent of state spending, lawmakers dedicated over $6 billion in new funds to HHS.

Currently, in the four years covering the 2024 to 2027 fiscal years, 42 percent of all new spending in general funds will be allocated to HHS, making it the primary driver of growth in the state budget. Growth in HHS spending is in fact, the leading reason for the potential $2.3 billion deficit Minnesota is expecting in the 2026-27 biennium.

While not as extensive as last session, lawmakers are still proposing new welfare spending bills this session. Among other things, lawmakers have proposed to:

  1. Extend Medicaid coverage to what’s known as Violence Prevention Services. These are defined as “services provided to promote improved health outcomes and positive behavioral and environmental change, prevent injury and recidivism, and reduce the likelihood that individuals who are victims of community violence will commit or promote violence themselves.” (SF 3649)
  2. Provide “12-month continuous medical assistance eligibility for adults” (HF 3466). A law was passed last session providing continuous Medicaid eligibility, ergo coverage, to children. This would extend that option to adults over 21 years old.
  3. Increase disability waiver rates, potentially raising welfare spending if passed (SF 3735; HF 3906).
  4. Create SNAP as a medicine program that would enroll individuals who fail to meet federal SNAP work requirements between 2024 and 2026 (HF 3469; SF 3968)
  5. “…establish a supplemental food assistance program for persons with a disability to provide supplemental food assistance to persons with a disability who is eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but not eligible for the maximum federal SNAP benefit for the person’s household size due to excess income.” (HF 3426; SF 3895)
  6. Create Supplemental SNAP for seniors (SF 4146).
  7. Open MinnesotaCare to direct care professionals and their families with household incomes of up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (HF 4042). Currently, MinnesotaCare is open to individuals and households with incomes below 200 percent of FPL.

Minnesota’s vast and expanding welfare system is already a problem

Whether these proposals go anywhere is left to be seen.

But last year’s expansion of welfare put the state budget in red. In the next four years, welfare is expected to consume a big and growing share of the state budget. This will put growing pressure on the budget, taxpayers, and the broader economy. Not to mention that there is a risk other spending priorities will be crowded out as spending on welfare continues to grow.

To say the least, it would be a big mistake to add new spending onto Minnesota’s vast and expanding welfare system as American Experiment research has already shown.