ST. PAUL, Minnesota (WCCO) – In the final hours of the special session, threats threatened to derail portions of a carefully crafted $ 52 billion budget agreement, but Minnesota lawmakers successfully passed outstanding portions of the two-year state spending plan and prevented a partial government shutdown.
The final part of the budget, an education package, was passed unanimously by the Senate on Wednesday before both chambers voted on a tax bill that was not a must to keep government services running.
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“We would have liked to have done it a little earlier, of course, but that’s how things work,” Governor Tim Walz told reporters as he handed the signed bill to Secretary of State Steve Simon to officially become law. “Democracy moves at its pace.”
Walz held a ceremonial signature of the budget late Thursday morning.
“Minnesotans survived this pandemic just as we survive all hardships in life – with courage and resilience. We got together and looked out for one another. Together we got through this pandemic, we got the vaccine, and now, with Minnesota’s COVID-19 recovery budget, we’re on our way back stronger than ever, ”Walz said. “Thank you, Minnesota.”
Legislators did not levy taxes to fund so-called historic investments in schools and several other government programs and services, thanks largely to a spate of federal COVID-19 relief funds that the state government alone gave more than $ 2.8 million sent. This extra money was added to a government surplus.
In the early hours of Thursday morning, lawmakers in both chambers passed a tax bill totaling $ 1 billion in tax breaks. It exempts federal Paycheck Protection Program loan companies received last year from tax and exempts up to $ 10,200 in additional federal unemployment benefits from taxes.
The final deal included changes in the House of Representatives, including banning current lawmakers from lobbying.
The new language also imposes some conditions on the governor’s end of emergency powers on July 1, which lawmakers voted for on Thursday, a month earlier than the governor originally planned.
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Now the state government can flexibly continue the unemployment insurance program until August 1st. The state can continue to operate test and vaccination centers.
There is also $ 250 million in bonuses for frontline employees, though the details of who is eligible and how much they get can be decided by a board of nine.
“We have tried to navigate extremely difficult situations,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake. “[House Speaker Melissa Hortman] represents and is a liberal and i am conservative and for these two sides to get together and barely touch, get a deal and get done, it is a lot harder than you can imagine.
The split state government was unable to reach an agreement on the budget before the regular session of its work was suspended in mid-May and accepted an inevitable June meeting to finalize the budget as Walz would request a 30-day extension of his COVID-19 emergency powers 14. June. They worked almost to the end before the deadline to keep parts of the government from shutting down on Thursday.
Billions of dollars in federal aid played a pivotal – and unique – role in budget negotiations this year, making the deal possible, leaders say. And it’s also the reason for the delays: the US Treasury Department released guidelines on how to use the latest stimulus funds towards the end of the regular session.
“We really needed that extra month. What made it difficult was how to spend that money and not add new programs that we have to pay for in four years when the money isn’t there. That was extremely difficult, ”said Gazelka. “Where it was beneficial, we didn’t have the same resources as before due to COVID and the lockdowns, so we were able to fill those out.”
Long days and long discussions marked the last days of the legislative session. One of the most controversial issues in the capital, the public safety and justice budget, sparked heated debates and threats to dissolve the deal in an attempt to get Republicans and Democrats to pass it. Community activists called for more far-reaching measures to make the police accountable, although many of them ultimately failed to make the final cut.
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This bill allows for restrictions on arrest warrants, allocates money for body cameras for the Minnesota State Patrol, and provides harsher penalties for crimes that attack police officers, among other things. Signing and release orders and the fact that the publication of a police officer’s home address online became an administrative offense also passed.