The Minnesota Capitol. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.
Republicans and Democratic-Farmer-Labor lawmakers broke off negotiations Thursday, leaving billions of dollars on the table that will leave school districts scrambling to deal with budget shortfalls, and local governments without public works money to complete important projects.
Minnesotans confronting the highest inflation in decades won’t see any direct payments or tax cuts to ease the pain of high gas and grocery bills.
DFL Gov. Tim Walz and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, blamed the Republican-majority Senate.
“This one is deeply disappointing because it feels like we were negotiating with ourselves over the last few weeks,” Walz said at a news conference with Hortman.
Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller blamed the Democrats’ desire for more spending.
“Even with a bipartisan legislative agreement to cut income taxes and end the tax on Social Security benefits, Democrats weren’t willing to pass this bill without billions more in spending,” Miller said in a statement.
Because lawmakers and Walz agreed to a two-year budget last year, the government won’t shut down, but inflation and the ongoing pandemic have created urgent needs for school districts, hospitals, state agencies and the millions of Minnesotans they serve.
Miller had agreed to the broad outlines of a bipartisan agreement about a week before the end of the regular session in May. That deal called for $4 billion for tax cuts and $4 billion on spending increases during the next three years, while leaving $4 billion in the bank to soften the blow of a potential recession.
Lawmakers were never able to get the agreement passed into law, however.
Former state Sen. Scott Jensen, the likely GOP nominee for governor against Walz this fall, said he called Republican senators during the final week of the session and urged them to hold off.
Republicans had good reason to walk away from negotiations. They expect to win the upcoming legislative election in November, when all 201 seats will be on the ballot, and Jensen has showed viability against Walz in a recent MinnPost poll.
A GOP trifecta would leave them with billions of dollars to use on tax cuts, which over time would help them achieve another goal — a sharp reduction in the size of government.
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