Behind closed doors, Minnesota leaders keep working to wrap up more than $3 billion in spending bills
Legislative leaders and the governor met in private this week to finish bills that didn't get over the finish line before the Legislature adjourned last month. Gov. Tim Walz has said he wants to call a special session if the leaders can finish a deal on the spending bills.
ST. PAUL — Minnesota legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday, June 9, met again to weigh whether lawmakers in the divided Statehouse could resolve unfinished work and return for a special session.
The governor, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller met virtually on Thursday afternoon to size up the progress that conference committee leaders had made in bridging gaps in plans to fund education, public safety, transportation and health and human services. Targets for the bills total more than $3 billion.
State lawmakers last month were unable to reach deals on the bills before the legislative deadline and additional spending proposals along with a $4 billion tax relief plan got stuck in the final hours as leaders in the House said they wanted the full package of bills to pass.
This week, chairs of the transportation and public safety committees met with the leaders in private. The lawmakers writing the education and health and human services bills were set to meet with them in the coming days, Walz said.
Walz on Thursday morning told reporters that he remained hopeful that the leaders could strike a deal that would let him call lawmakers back to St. Paul. And he encouraged Minnesotans to put pressure on their lawmakers to let them know they want them to return for a special session.
“I would just encourage Minnesotans to not accept the status quo on this," he said, "this is the work the Legislature was supposed to be doing since January and we want to bring them back and do that."
Democrats at the Capitol, along with some Republicans, have supported the push to wrap up the roughly $4 billion in spending bills and bring legislators back to approve them along with the tax bill and a local jobs and projects bill. But Miller and his GOP caucus have been less enthusiastic.
Miller hasn't publicly weighed in on the meetings in over a week. And before the Legislature adjourned in May, he said he was skeptical that lawmakers could finish their work in overtime.
Other Republicans said they'd prefer to let the next Legislature take up the historic $9.2 billion budget surplus when they convene in January.
“My constituents are just fine with just leave the money on the bottom line for later,” Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, said on Tuesday.
Hortman on Tuesday said that committee leaders were inching closer to deals behind the scenes, and she thought they could forge a path to a special session later this month.
“I think there’s a ton of bipartisan agreement to go back and I really think we’re 10 days to two weeks away from finishing all of the outstanding work,” Hortman said. “I’d want folks to know that we're still working and hope to conclude and settle the agreement that we reached.”