Legislature Returns for Special Session
- End of the Governor’s Emergency Powers,
- Requiring the Legislature to spend any federal COVID-19 funds, nullifying the agreement between the Speaker, Senate Majority Leader and Governor Walz in May which allowed the Governor to spend $500 million in federal funding with no involvement of the Legislature,
- Eliminating the additional federal Unemployment Insurance benefit,
- Continuing the Minnesota health insurance, re-insurance program,
- Passage of a bonding bill which includes corrections to language adopted in the 2020 bonding bill.
If members of the Minority Party are unwilling to support motions to suspend the rules and move bills quickly, the process for passing legislation could be drawn out over a number of legislative days. Because we are now in a Special Session, the budget agreements will also move as standalone bills, and not conference committee reports. This means amendments can be offered to these proposals further lengthening the time spent processing the individual pieces of legislation.
There are a number of challenging policy decisions still needing to be resolved. Police reform is holding up the completion of the Public Safety Bill, Education funding is held up over a debate on vouchers and Governor Walz’s efforts to have Minnesota adopt the California Clean Car standards is hampering an agreement on the Environment bill.In a normal budget year, financial constraints make reaching a budget agreement a real challenge. However, this year the state is flush with cash. Since the regular session ended on May 17th, the state closed the books on May receipts. In May, the state received $3.306 billion in net general fund revenues, $1.796 billion (119%) more than had been projected. This increase was largely tied to moving Tax Day from April to May 17th. This brings fiscal year receipts for 2021 to $23.113 billion, which is $2.170 billion (10.4%) more than had been projected. This $2.170 billion budget surplus can be combined with the nearly $3 billion coming to the state in the most recent round of COVID funding. While the surplus and federal funds are only available for one-time spending, the state does have money available to make investments in programs and infrastructure. In addition to these funds, the state also has roughly $2.377 billion in budget reserves. The challenge for leaders is managing the expectations of groups who are seeking funding and not creating budget tails for the next biennium.The situation is very fluid and will likely change multiple times in the coming days. It is being reported the negotiations on the Transportation Finance and Jobs bills are nearing completion. It is hoped the Special Session can wrap up in 7 to 10 days. The House is planning to meet over the weekend and begin processing bills on Thursday. The Senate will also likely begin to move bills this week, however the Senate does not plan to meet over the upcoming weekend.