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'Time is running out': Minnesota lawmakers race to spend $8 billion in last three days

Lawmakers face a Sunday deadline to complete spending and tax bills and to pass them through both chambers. As of Friday morning, they had extensive work left to complete before then.

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, and Sen. Karin Housley, R-Stillwater, on Thursday, May 19, 2022, update reporters at the Capitol about ongoing supplemental budget negotiations.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Much of the major work of the Minnesota legislative session remained on the table Friday, May 20, as lawmakers entered the final weekend at the Capitol.

With a looming deadline to act on spending and policy bills, state lawmakers still had not made public plans for how the state planned to send out $4 billion in new tax cuts and credits and $4 billion to schools, long-term care providers, health care programs, police recruitment efforts and more.

“Many of these bills – especially the larger bills – are pretty far apart. So time is running out,” Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, told reporters on Thursday, May 19.

Miller, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Gov. Tim Walz on Monday set their broad criteria for an end-of-session deal that would spend $4 billion for tax policy changes, $4 billion for new state spending and leave another $4 billion on the bottom line in case the state's economy took a turn for the worse. And they said conference committee leaders should aim to wrap up full spending bills mid-week so that the legislative revisor's office would have time to assess and format them and there would be enough time to take them up for floor votes.

After blowing past that timeline on Thursday, the leaders said several committees were close to reaching agreements but still had work to do Friday if they were to get bills passed through the Legislature over the weekend.

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"We do have enough time but everybody has to get realistic," Hortman told reporters at the Capitol. “We have to finish our work by midnight on Sunday and we still can.”

Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman
Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, on Friday, May 20, 2022, speaks with reporters at the Capitol about ongoing budget negotiations.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

Hortman said she still held out hope that lawmakers could finish a deal before the legislative deadline but said significant disagreements remained on four of the biggest spending bills: K-12 education, public safety, health and human services and transportation. Legislative leaders had stepped in to help conference committee leaders work through issues preventing them from moving forward, Hortman said.

She also noted that Democrats in the House planned to pass spending bills before they'd vote on a $4 billion tax plan, even if lawmakers finished writing that bill first.

“The trump card that the House has is that all tax bills have to originate in the House, we will not pass the tax bill until everything is done,” Hortman said.

Walz has said he won't call a special session and on Thursday he told reporters that he stood by the commitment to hold lawmakers to their deadline. Lawmakers can only cast votes until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, May 22, without an extension.

Lawmakers took small steps late in the week to move supplemental budget bills forward. On Thursday, the Minnesota House voted to concur changes to a $159 million Legacy bill funding water and wildlife projects around the state. And the House of Representatives on Friday afternoon voted to approve a $20 million higher education bill.

The Senate also approved a bill rewriting the state's liquor laws, teeing the bill for a House vote later in the day. And that chamber ratified state employee contracts, preventing a roll-back of cost-of-living raises approved after negotiations last year.

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Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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