An influx of cash from the federal American Rescue Plan allowed Minnesota legislators to complete a “spend all the money” budget deal with enough tax cuts, funding increases and smiles to go around.
While we can appreciate the bipartisan agreement, success was obviously easier with an extra $2.8 billion from the feds, an amount about equal to 10 percent of the annual state budget.
Republicans got the tax cuts they sought, and Democrats got the boosts to education spending and social programs. Details of the spending will be worked out in the next few weeks by legislative conference committees with a special session to be called no later than June 14. Policy issues will be worked out in the conference committees as well.
While Gov. Tim Walz, House DFL Speaker Melissa Hortman, and GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka agreed on the budget numbers, thorny issues like those surrounding the details of the tax cuts and issues like police reform measures will likely have Democrats and Republicans facing significant disagreements.
On the Republican side, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, of Alexandria, had threatened to hold up all spending for the environmental bill unless Walz pushes back the date of the state’s Clean Car Standard. That would close state parks July 1 and hold up various other important environmental functions. Senate GOP leadership and others pushed back against Ingebrigtsen’s extreme plan, and he would be well advised to retract his gridlock-inducing proposal.
Democrats, for their part, have put forth about a dozen or so proposals to reform policing, some of which Republicans say they oppose. We favor many of the police reforms proposed by Democrats, particularly the proposals to eliminate stops for minor traffic offenses and issue tickets instead.
Federal money seemed to be a big part of solving the budget numbers issue, but that windfall will not likely be helpful in solving policy issues. Let’s hope the currency of common sense will be.