By Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano
The Legislature adjourned well before the deadline of midnight Monday without completing work on this session’s top priority, setting a new two-year state budget.
It was the strangest conclusion of a session during my time in the House. We entered Monday without a budget agreement, reports emerged that the governor and legislative leaders had reached a deal and then we adjourned mid-afternoon. We were done, just like that, resigned to finishing work on the budget during an upcoming legislative session instead of sticking around to see how much progress could be made in the final nine or 10 remaining hours in the session.
The good news is the loose framework of the budget compromise includes no tax increases. On the other hand, it is a bit disappointing tax increases were even a part of the budget discussions this year since the state has a historic surplus north of $4 billion. The House majority’s insistence on tax increases is a major reason we entered the final day of the session without agreement on a budget.
In addition, the highly partisan nature of the House’s budget bills also have created obstacles. All of the Senate’s budget bills passed with bipartisan support, while only four of the 12 House budget bills were approved with support from both sides of the aisle.
I mentioned the budget agreement is a “loose framework” and that is a good thing. Some top-line themes have been agreed to, but we should take advantage of every opportunity to make improvements until the finishing touches are put in place prior to a special session. For instance, an end date should be established for retiring the governor’s emergency powers since Minnesota no longer is in a state of emergency. Vaccinations are up, COVID-19 cases are down, masks are off and it’s time to end the one-man rule.
We also should work on passing language to end the push to require Minnesota’s automobiles to adhere to California’s regulations. And, with billions of federal stimulus dollars coming to our state, we must ensure there is legislative oversight and control over every penny of the federal funds.
So there are areas for improvement that can be had in the coming weeks. It is concerning, however, that much of the detailed work on our new budget now will take place behind closed doors after the House Democrats pushed us past adjournment. The lack of bipartisan collaboration already was evident this session and now three people – the governor and House/Senate leaders – are hashing things out on their own without input from the full bodies. And this isn’t just a view from the House minority, it’s something that will be felt in all four caucuses.
Furthermore, a provision of the budget agreement says the governor (along with legislative leaders) must approve of all provisions in omnibus bills before they are sent to him for enactment. I understand the governor’s desire to be involved and, from a practical standpoint, that may be warranted to a certain degree. But it also is concerning that his involvement in the actual crafting of bills further compromises our separation of powers.
Legislators are elected to make laws and governors are elected to execute laws. The governor has issued more than 130 executive orders that have the effect of law over the last 14 months, so maybe people are becoming desensitized to him acting as a lawmaker.