By Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston
The Legislature just ended the 2021 session with an unfinished budget and the least productive regular session in nearly four decades with zero budget bills having reached the governor’s desk.
There was no big push to find agreement and get our work done on time and, in fact, both bodies just punched out early, adjourning several hours before the deadline of midnight Monday. A special session apparently will happen next month so the governor can extend his emergency powers into a 15th month and the budget could be wrapped up then.
The way this played out is a disgrace. Word the so-called tribunal (the governor and Senate/House leaders) had reached agreement on the framework for a budget came out Monday but that didn’t inspire anyone to stick around until the deadline. Instead, we got drips and drabs of what looks like a terrible budget deal that only serves to advance the extreme liberal agenda pushed by the governor and the House majority.
The only “victories” I can see are things that should have been no-brainers, things that were assumed from the start and shouldn’t even have been part of budget negotiations. House Democrats gave up their massive tax increases. Whoop-de-do, with a surplus of around $4.4 billion, there was no chance of them raising taxes this year anyway.
And, apparently, on the last day of session House Democrats gave in on taxing struggling businesses and people who were out of work this year by agreeing to Paycheck Protection Program and Unemployment Insurance relief. Minnesota is the only state in the Upper Midwest that hasn’t taken this action and we should have done it months ago. These provisions never should have been taken seriously as bargainings chips because they had overwhelming bipartisan support. We shouldn’t be claiming victory for something that simply does the bare minimum for Minnesotans by not allowing the state to profit off their hardships at a time of historic surplus.
The list of things that were not addressed in this late-session budget agreement is even longer. There is no end in sight to the governor’s emergency powers that have long outlived their usefulness and now just serve as a political tool. It looks like we won’t have oversight of $500 million in revenue the governor is going to spend on his own free will; you can see the Minneapolis bail-out coming from a mile away. And we didn’t put the brakes on the governor’s unilateral push to place Minnesota under California’s auto regulations.
On top of it all, under the deal reached by our state’s tribunal, apparently the governor must approve of all provisions in omnibus bills before the Legislature may send them to him for his action. In other words, the governor is now playing lawmaker yet another way. He’s been doing it for more than a year with more than 130 emergency orders issued and now he’s inserted himself into the middle of the legislative process.
While it does seem governors have become more and more involved in hashing out budgets over the years, this is outlandish for him to be this involved in the process, before bills are even drafted. This erosion of our separation of powers is just another way this governor is cutting off our Constitution at the knees.
Maybe the best news in all this is our special session is not expected to happen until the middle of next month. That is an eternity in legislative time and maybe, if we’re lucky, this agreement will fall apart by then after Minnesotans realize what is in it.