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Special session remains a question mark

Gov. Walz urges lawmakers to settle their differences on spending bills, but Republicans take a dim view.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — A day after the 2022 session ended with many spending bills still in limbo, it was unclear if capitol Republicans would agree to come back for a special session.

Gov. Tim Walz huddled privately with House and Senate leaders Monday afternoon, but left the meeting saying the GOP contingent wants more time to decompress from an intense session ending and think about it.

"We should simply complete our work, returning money back to Minnesotans in the form of tax cuts and relief to their families, investing in education and public safety," Walz told reporters.

He urged lawmakers to settle their differences over a long list of bills that were still mired in negotiations when the clock ran out on the regular session. Governors typically don't call legislators back to the capitol until there's an agreement in place to limit the scope of overtime session.

RELATED: Minnesota budget deals remain elusive near end of session

"In my opinion we’re about 90 to 95% of the way there," Walz told reporters. "You don’t get the ball to the one yard line and go home. You finish the job that Minnesotans expect us to do."

Republican leaders, however, said repeatedly in the waning days of the session they opposed the idea of going into extra innings. Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller repeated that early Monday morning after the session ended.

"We'll come back next session and finish it up," Sen. Miller told reporters.

"We’re always happy to listen, but the reality is the deadline was midnight, and that deadline has come and gone."

A week earlier Miller signed onto a budget framework agreement with Walz and DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman, featuring $4 billion in new spending across the next three years and $4 billion in tax relief over the same period.

They left it to House-Senate conference committees to hammer out compromise versions of bills that would hit those budget and tax relief targets. When time ran out the spending bills that were stuck in committee included E-12 Education, Public Safety, Health and Human Services, Transportation, State Government, and Construction Bonding.

"We have some really important, relatively easy things to do. We have some really important harder things to do. And we stand ready to work," Rep. Hortman told reporters.

"Minnesotans don’t care how long it takes us to get done. What they care about is the quality of the work product that we deliver for them."

The tax conference committee Saturday announced they had reached agreement on a sweeping tax relief package which included an income tax rate cut, complete tax exemption for Social Security benefits regardless of income and a variety of tax credits for families and renters.

Republicans made tax relief their priority this session but had also shown enthusiasm for some of the spending initiatives, especially around public safety, transportation and help for the long-term care industry. Democrats passed bills boosting school spending for special education and support staff.

But Rep. Hortman made it clear from the start she wouldn't bring up the tax bill on the House floor until after the spending bills had all passed. Tax bills always originate in the House, so the Senate can't act on that bill until after it passes the other chamber.

Special sessions have been common in Minnesota for decades, especially in odd-numbered years when the legislature must pass a balanced two-year budget to prevent a state government shutdown. 

But lawmakers passed a balanced budget last year, so there's no threat of a shutdown in this summer. Lawmakers devoted much of the 2022 session to exploring ways to use most of the projected $9 billion surplus for the current two-year budget cycle.

RELATED: Walz, legislators to discuss special session possibilities

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