Monday’s abrupt end to the 2021 legislative session will go down as one of the more memorable turn of events I have seen during my time in the House.
We began Monday without agreement on a new state budget. Reports the governor and House/Senate leaders had reached broad agreement on a budget surfaced that morning. But, rather than continuing to work on the budget and/or other bills on the agenda, the House surprised many by punching out more than nine hours ahead of the midnight deadline and the Senate followed suit not long after.
This has left citizens and legislators alike with many questions as we now look ahead at a special session to at least finish business with the budget before the fiscal year ends June 30. We do know the framework of a deal that was agreed to includes zero tax increases and provides tax relief for federal Paycheck Protection Program loans and unemployment insurance.
Those are good things, especially in light of our state’s significant surplus. But, since Tax Day was Monday, it would have been fitting to approve PPP and UI legislation that day. Now, we will have to take it up in a special session. Legislators are looking into the possibility of, upon enactment, PPP/UI relief being delivered to people who qualify without them having to go through the process of filing amended returns. It remains to be seen whether that is viable but it would be helpful to many if we can.
I also am pleased the tentative agreement includes increased funding for broadband delivery in Greater Minnesota and a bump in the agriculture budget. I am hopeful part of the $10 million ag increase can be used for implementing E-15 fuel infrastructure to aid availability.
As we work on the details of the budget agreement, there are some things we should continue working to include before the plan is in finished form. For example, we need a date for when the governor will end the peacetime emergency declaration that he placed on our state 14 months ago.
There is no end in sight for his emergency powers to be retired even though our state is not facing an emergency. In fact, it is expected the governor will call a special session in mid-June to extend his powers by yet another 30 days. Minnesotans deserve to know how and when our state will return to normal with our representative government back in place.
Watch for more from the House as issues related to the next budget are ironed out. Conference committees that were meeting during the 2021 session have continued their efforts as working groups since the Legislature adjourned and I hope we soon have a budget in place that Minnesotans can support.
Until next time, enjoy the weekend and let’s hope for some much-needed rain in our area.