ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Millions of dollars’ worth of critical jobs, construction projects and education funding are hanging in the balance as lawmakers work late into Sunday night.
Despite a marathon weekend at the Minnesota State Capitol, lawmakers have yet to reach a deal on $2 billion bonding bill.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said a flurry of negotiations was happening to find a middle ground on a bonding bill.
The Democratic-controlled House was pushing for $2 billion, while the GOP-controlled Senate wanted to spend roughly half that amount.
Sunday afternoon, Sen. Gazelka said an agreement had been reached with the House majority, but he wouldn’t elaborate since discussions were ongoing with the House and Senate minorities.
Whatever that agreement was didn’t come to fruition late Sunday. The Senate failed to pass its $998 million bonding bill, meaning the issue now awaits further discussion in a special session.
— Paul Gazelka (@paulgazelka) May 17, 2020
Joining it will be a dispute over raises for nearly 50,000 state workers, which was approved last year. But because of Minnesota’s projected deficit is now facing due to the pandemic, the Senate late Saturday night voted to freeze workers’ salaries, meaning they wouldn’t get a raise until summer 2021.
Last week, the House voted in favor of the contract as it was agreed upon last year. If the two sides can’t agree on the workers’ contract, the workers run the risk of losing the raise they earned last summer — in addition to the one they were expecting this July.
Despite those two major disagreements, there were a few bipartisan wins this session. The legislature passed the emergency insulin bill, giving Minnesotans with diabetes affordable access to the life-saving medication. They also quickly agreed on $500 million in COVID-19 relief spending.
In a statement released Monday morning, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said that because Gov. Tim Walz extended his emergency powers earlier this month, it all but guaranteed lawmakers would have to return to the Capitol this summer for a special session.
“The coming weeks will give us further clarity on our state’s financial situation, time to evaluate our response to the pandemic, and time to make better decisions,” Daudt said.
In another Monday morning statement, Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent (D-Woodbury) said that stalling from Republicans resulted in the failure of the bonding bill and other legislation.
“They failed to work with DFLers to pass legislation that would protect the economic security of Minnesotans affected by COVID-19 and to fully ratify the state employee contracts that were negotiated in good faith,” she said. “Additionally, Senate DFLers were met with silence after months of outreach to Republican legislators in order to pass a robust bonding bill that would have created local jobs and projects across the state during a time when our state needs economic stimulus now more than ever.”
A special session is expected to happen in mid-June regarding the possible extension of Walz’s state of emergency declaration.
Walz has scheduled a media briefing Monday morning, where he will discuss the outcome of the 2020 session.