ST. PAUL (WCCO) – The Minnesota legislature will begin special session Monday to hash out the $52 billion budget and resolve remaining policy disputes as quickly as possible to avoid a government shutdown that would hit July 1 should there be no deal approved.
But there is still a good deal of work left for state lawmakers as the window of time before the new fiscal year shrinks.READ MORE: St. Paul Woman Charged With Murder After Ex-Husband's Body Found Buried In Backyard
“As legislators are at the capitol, they will feel the intensity dial up to get a deal done,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, acknowledged during an interview Sunday. “I expect the debate on those [bills] to be long and contentious, but I expect to plow through all of those until we get them all done.”
Hortman estimated passing the 14 budget bills to fund state agencies and services would take at least seven to 10 days. Only a few of the working groups have posted spreadsheets indicating they’ve struck a deal on spending plans and so far scheduled meetings are scattershot.
Hortman, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Gov. Tim Walz reached broad agreement on top-line numbers before the regular session ended last month, but punted passing the budget until the inevitable special session when Gov. Tim Walz looked to renew his special peacetime emergency powers for an additional 30 days, which he has done every month since March 2020.
Gov. Tim Walz signed a proclamation Friday calling lawmakers back to St. Paul Monday.
The budget alone is a large undertaking, but policy deals are a steeper climb when there is ideological gulfs between the chambers.
In wake of George Floyd’s murder, DFL lawmakers increased the pressure push for more police reform, a defining battle this year that is likely to continue into this special meeting of the legislature. Hortman said Republicans and Democrats tackling public safety’s budget are trading offers and “gradually getting close to each other.”
A key lawmaker on the issue, Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, on WCCO Sunday Morning also expressed confidence that there would be some compromise on policing proposals, including Frazier’s bill aiming that would limit stops for certain traffic violations in an effort to avoid incidents that turn deadly.
In a statement, Gazelka reiterated that his chamber is “committed to considering thoughtful offers to improve public safety, but will not be taking any proposals that make it harder for our state’s law enforcement to do their job.” Gazelka was unavailable for interview Sunday.READ MORE: Child Tax Credit: Monday Is Deadline To Opt Out Of Advance Monthly Payments
Other points of contention are education funding and environmental policy, Hortman said. Democrats’ and Republicans’ wish lists are long and at odds with each other, but legislative leaders—despite their differences—say they are trying to keep lawmakers on task.
“Once we have a leadership agreement, we are mediators. We become a team together who works to break through and get things done,” Hortman said.
Government Shutdown Looms July 1 If Legislature Doesn’t Complete Its Work
State government would shut down if a budget isn’t passed. Although shutdowns are rare, Minnesota saw closures in 2005 and 2011 for a few weeks.
Government agencies late last month already sent noticed to state employees, warning them of that possibility again this year, though leaders and the governor remain confident that won’t happen.
“Each day that we get closer to the end of the month, there are certain things that have to happen by law in preparation in the event we wouldn’t have a budget,” Hortman said. “The backdrop of our budget work at the state capitol is the executive branch has to take certain actions to prepare for the worst case scenario.”
One of the more consequential actions, Hortman described, is sending notices state contractors on large transportation construction projects. The preparations for a potential shutdown, which would impact tens of thousands of state employees, adds urgency to wrap up session swiftly.
Certain priorities of both chambers will be causalities of the deadline.MORE NEWS: COVID In Minnesota: 632 New COVID Cases, 6 More Deaths
“We are looking to work literally around the clock to get things done as soon as possible once the peacetime emergency session begins,” she said.