Walz says he'll call special session after lawmakers miss deadline, leave billions of dollars on the table
The governor said he would meet with legislative leaders on Monday morning in hopes of reaching deals that could get approved in a special session.
ST. PAUL — Gov. Tim Walz says he plans to call Minnesota lawmakers back to St. Paul for a special session after they closed out the 2022 legislative session without passing a $3.9 billion tax plan, nearly $4 billion in proposed spending for nursing homes, schools, police agencies and other areas, or a $1.4 billion bonding bill.
The Legislature blew past a deadline late Sunday, May 22, to pass bills without moving several tax and spending bills across the finish line. Partisan disagreements over what should be in those bills tanked their prospects.
Legislative leaders said they'd come closer to agreements on spending for K-12 schools, public safety, health and human services and transportation over the weekend but couldn't complete them in time to bring them up for a vote on Sunday. Walz met with Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, on Monday afternoon and said he was hopeful that they could determine a framework for a special session after going home for a couple of days of rest.
“We’re too close to leave all these good things on the table," Walz told reporters just after midnight on Monday, May 23. "You don't get the ball to the one yard line and go home."
Walz holds the power to call a special session but lawmakers decide what to do once they get to the Capitol and when they close out and head home. So the governor said he hoped to reach an agreement with Hortman and Miller before bringing lawmakers back to St. Paul.
On Monday, Hortman told reporters that she remained hopeful that the outstanding issues could get resolved in the next few days and that the Legislature could finish the tax and spending bills, as well as a public jobs and projects bill in a brief special session.
"With just a little bit more time, we can get it done," Hortman said. "Minnesotans don't care how long it takes us to get done, what they care about is the quality of the work product we deliver."
Up for consideration are plans to spend $1 billion on K-12 education, $1 billion more on health and human services programs, $450 million to help police agencies and $1.4 billion on a bonding bill that could kick-start local projects around the state. But that's only if the leaders can get on the same page about what they want to do once the Legislature reconvenes.
The Legislature approved and the governor last year signed into law a budget that runs through next year, so lawmakers don't have to do anything this year. Typically, in even-numbered years lawmakers pass a borrowing bill to fund state and local projects and a supplemental budget but they weren't able to get one done in time this year to approve it.
Before their midnight deadline, both the House and Senate approved emergency funding for avian influenza and drought relief, $210 million for rural broadband, a nearly $93 million package of mental health supports, $65 million for veterans services, and a health and human services policy ahead of their deadline. Those bills move next to the governor for his signature.
Just after the legislative deadline on Monday, Miller said he was frustrated and disappointed that lawmakers couldn't finish their work before midnight. And he didn't hold out hope that the outcome would be much different if they put more time on the clock.
“The reality is the deadline is midnight but that deadline has come and gone,” Miller said. “What is one or two more days going to do?"
Neither Miller nor Hortman spoke with reporters after their afternoon meeting with the governor.
Leaders of both parties cast blame on opposing party lawmakers for blocking much of the spending and tax framework from passing in the Legislature's final days. Republicans sought to pass anything that was ready to go while Democrats wanted to stick to an agreement to pass a raft of bills together.
"The one consistent thing we've seen all session is Democrats have blown past deadlines," Miller told reporters.
Senate Minority Leader Melisa Lopez Franzen, DFL-Edina, said both parties and both chambers were to blame for not getting the bills finished in time.
"It's a failure of all of us, we can act like it's the House or the Senate's guilt but it's really a failure of all of us. We have a lot of leaders but we need leadership," she said.
Long-term care providers, advocates for people with disabilities, education groups and others on Monday voiced their irritation with the Legislature for not approving additional funding that they said could help serious staffing shortages around the state. And they called on lawmakers to come back to pass more spending bills.
"Minnesota’s seniors, their families and their caregivers are shocked that legislators are returning home without using the budget surplus to ensure access to care for Minnesota’s seniors," a coalition of long-term care advocacy groups said, noting that 23,000 caregiver jobs remain open around the state and 450 nursing homes are on the brink of closing.
Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, on Monday afternoon said Walz should be "begging us to come back" to pass a funding bill that could help ease staffing issues for long-term care facilities and group care homes.
Democratic legislators said they remained optimistic that they could convince Republicans to enter into a special session by propping up GOP priorities like a $3.9 billion tax bill and a public safety funding package. On Saturday, both parties touted the completion of a tax plan that would eliminate the tax on social security benefits, drop the lowest income tax rate and boost other tax credits.
“We came to a compromise and were able to get a historic tax bill, now we have to compromise on spending bills and move forward," Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said. "I would just hate to see this tax bill slip away."