4 days remaining and there is still no agreement.
Despite a legislative week of long days and nights stretching into the wee morning hours, budget negotiations between Governor Walz and legislative leaders still have found no agreement. Thursday’s negotiations sessions broke down late in the afternoon. We hope they will resume this morning.
However, in a somewhat ominous signal, Thursday evening the Republican Majority of the Senate Finance Committee presented and passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) intended to keep the State government open past July 1 should no ’20 -‘21 budget be finalized. No DFL Senators on the Finance Committee voted for the CR. To take effect such a resolution will also have to be passed not only by the full Senate but also by the DFL controlled House and approved by Governor Walz. The bringing of such a CR at this particular moment of negotiations seems a bit early because although there are only four days left to complete the budget before the end of the regular session today, there is still time to do so. We should all keep in mind that a firm deadline is often the key pressure that forces compromise to conclude difficult negotiations; attempting to remove such a deadline can risk having the opposite effect.
Whether this CR is a political tactic to create new pressure on the DFL Governor and House or a signal that things have come to an end prior to Monday’s midnight constitutional deadline remains to be seen. My hope is that it’s more the former than the latter.
Budget and policy disagreements between the Republican Senate versus the DFL House and Governor are making finding a successful budget conclusion difficult. As we have indicated in earlier reports a proposed increase in the gas tax for transportation needs and an extension of the provider tax to continue various state healthcare programs are among the major issues. Additionally and importantly, all State agency and department’s budgets are also held in the balance by this legislative conflict.
In a larger view, the partisan divide between the Republican controlled Senate and the DFL controlled House and Governor speaks to the sharp difference within our larger society as to the role of government. Those differences can be seen in these budget decisions. Minnesota is the only state in the nation whose voters have provided a legislature divided by two different parties. This is certainly not the first time such a legislative division has been the case but it is interesting that at this time Minnesota is the one in our nation. Perhaps in this polarized time in our nation’s history, Minnesota’s conflict reflects not only our legislatures but our population’s divided politics. If so, we should not be surprised that the Minnesota government is now in such a conflict. It is, nevertheless, most unfortunate risking many problems for orderly government and the lives of many people.
We hope that today, Friday, May 17th will bring a breakthrough in this stalemate. As each day and every hour pass it makes it more difficult to complete the legislative session by the Monday night deadline.
Nevertheless, at least as of this morning many of us believe it is still possible.