ST.PAUL, Minn. (AP) — There’s a new mix at Minnesota’s big conference table for the always-contentious negotiations at the end of the legislative session over the big questions of taxes and spending.

It’s the first budget for Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, and Speaker Melissa Hortman’s first as the top House Democrat. GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka — who served as something of a peacemaker in the acrimonious budget fights of 2017 and 2018 — is back as the top Senate Republican and will play a decisive role in shaping the next two-year budget as the May 20 adjournment date looms.

The big question on just about any proposal from Walz or the House Democratic majority has been whether it can pass the GOP-controlled Senate. Despite just a three-seat majority, Gazelka hasn’t suffered any significant defections so far.

Here’s a look at the key players and their priorities for the crucial end-of-session negotiations:

GOV. TIM WALZ

The former congressman from Mankato proposed an ambitious budget that emphasized education, health care and prosperous communities — with new spending and higher taxes to pay for them. His budget largely mirrored the campaign themes that got him elected and helped Democrats retake control of the House.

Walz’s challenge now is how much of that agenda can survive the need for compromises with Senate Republicans — and how much gets dropped to become part of the Democratic platform for Campaign 2020.

“I think there’s every reason to be skeptical,” he said late last week about chances for a tidy finish, “because history has proven that to be a pretty safe bet, but we’ve got new folks here, there’s a new tone.”

Walz has said repeatedly that there are only two issues on which he won’t compromise. The most important is preserving the state’s Health Care Access Fund, which helps fund care programs including Medicaid and MinnesotaCare. It’s replenished by a 2 percent tax on health care providers that Republicans want to let expire at year’s end, cutting revenues around $700 million annually. The governor’s other red line is releasing all of the $6.6 million in federal election security money that the state has already received but Senate Republicans have bottled up.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER PAUL GAZELKA

The soft-spoken Nisswa Republican can be seen as Minnesota’s most powerful legislative leader because he and his colleagues can — and have — blocked much of what Democrats want. House Democrats have countered by wrapping many of their priorities into their budget bills in hopes that some pass as part of the final deal.

Comments
  1. CTTV15@Hotmail.com says:

    Welcome to the bridge of the Titanic ALL..

    In the last 4 years alone, $65 Billion Dollars of ‘Personal Wealth’ has exited Minnesota PERMANENTLY…

    Business(s) like Electrolux (South Carolina) have departed from the not-so-green-pastures of Minnesota as well.. Others are just closing up or downsizing..

    OUR best and brightest are not sticking around after college, IF THEY EVEN ATTEND COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY HERE ANY LONGER.. Just look at the MinnSCU stats these days..

    Multi-Millions of Minnesota Taxpayer (MN DHS Scandals) assets ARE ALLOWED TO BE STOLEN ANNUALLY now..
    ..
    …WE cannot even go to The Mall of America, Valley Fair, or take a stroll around Minneapolis inner city lakes, and feel OR BE safe any longer..

    …And, the corruption in Minnesota, from the Governor’s Office, the Minnesota AG’s Office, to our legislature, is off the charts now..

    …Welcome to the bridge of the Titanic ALL..