Deadline looms as Minnesota lawmakers scramble to finish business at the Capitol – Duluth News Tribune

ST. PAUL — Plans to spend almost $4 billion for public schools, long-term care facilities, police agencies and other government services and pass a $3.9 billion tax package remained in limbo Sunday, May 22, as lawmakers entered the final hours of the Minnesota legislative session .

Lawmakers returned Sunday for the last day that they could vote on policy at the Capitol and as the clock ticked down, legislative leaders split on whether they could finish their work before midnight.

As of Sunday afternoon, the largest spending plans for K-12 education, public safety and judicial, health and human services and transportation remained stuck in negotiations between the Republican-led Senate and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor-led House of Representatives. And several other spending bills had not yet come up for a vote in the Legislature.

Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said lawmakers should try to push forward ahead of the 11:59 pm deadline. Issues were close to resolution, he said, and if negotiators could finish their plans in the early afternoon, there would be enough time to get them formatted and ready for action.

“The time to get serious is right now,” Miller said on the Senate floor. “We’re making progress. The challenge is (that) time is short.”

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, on Sunday

told MPR News

that lawmakers wouldn’t be able to finish billions of dollars in spending proposals before the midnight deadline to take up legislation at the Capitol. And she asked Gov. Tim Walz to call a short special session so that lawmakers could wrap up negotiations on the outstanding spending bills and then return to St. Paul to pass them.

Miller rejected the call for a special session and said lawmakers should finish up whatever they could on Sunday.

“We are not interested in a special session. Whatever we can get done today, we’ll get done,” Miller told reporters.

Legislative leaders and the governor on Monday presented a broad agreement to pass a $4 billion tax bill and $4 billion in new spending to several areas funded by state government using the state’s historic budget surplus. But they left the details of where the money should go to legislative committee leads.

In the days since, several committees have deadlocked on the best way to spend those funds. And that could sink the entire framework — at least for now.

Hortman has said that that chamber would wait to vote on the tax bill until the spending proposals move through the Capitol. With the deadline approaching, the clock could run out before many of those bills reach the floor.

Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen, DFL-Edina, on Sunday urged the Senate GOP to take up all spending bills before they close out the legislative session.

“The global agreement outlined tax relief, funding for our students and schools, funding for long-term care and seniors, public safety investments and a job-creating bonding bill,” she said. “We cannot do one without doing them all. I urge my Republican colleagues to live up the agreement they made.”

Lawmakers negotiating the spending bills late Sunday morning said that they were still working toward agreements that could send additional funds out to schools, nursing homes, disability services providers and others. But they weren’t sure they could bridge the divides in ideas put forth by Democrats and Republicans within a matter of hours.

“I’m an optimist, but it’s a long shot,” Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, told reporters. Abeler is working with fellow legislators to write a $1 billion health and human services spending plan.

A day prior, leads of the tax conference committee announced their plan to fully eliminate the tax on Social Security, drop the state’s lowest income tax bracket and boost other tax credits. They called on other committee leaders to finish up their work Sunday so that the full tax and spending package could make it across the finish line before their deadline.

“Before you can move forward with any part of the agreement, all the parts of the agreement have to be completed,” Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said. “The conference committee here urges the other areas that are working to get their job done.”

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