Legislators report back to the Minnesota State Capitol tomorrow for the beginning of the 2008 legislative session facing a budget deficit that some project may be as big as $1 billion. Legislators will immediately begin tackling important issues that will shape the views of voter constituents heading into the 2008 election cycle, where all 134 House members will be up for election.

At the top of this year’s agenda will be transportation funding, capital bonding and comprehensive health-care reform. A transportation funding package vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2007 will be immediately resurrected by the DFL majorities in both houses and sent to the Governor as soon as procedurally possible, where it is expected to again be vetoed. It is likely that DFLers will immediately attempt to override the Governor’s veto. That scenario could set the stage for a highly acrimonious, and possibly unproductive, legislative session in 2008.

In addition, big-time politics is casting a shadow over this year’s legislative session like no other in recent memory:

  • DFLers hold commanding majorities in both the Minnesota House and the Senate, yet they have been forced to the negotiation table by remarkably resilient Republican minority caucuses who have not splintered, thereby blocking DFL veto override attempts;
  • All 134 House of Representative seats are up for election in 2008;
  • Gov. Pawlenty continues to build his stature as a major national player on the Republican Party scene as co-chair of U.S. Senator John McCain’s presidential bid and as chair of the National Governors Association; and
  • Minnesota is preparing to host the Republican National Convention in Saint Paul in September.

Business will be conducted at lightning speed as legislators get back to work tomorrow. The first policy deadlines occur in fewer than five weeks, on March 14.