The Minnesota Legislature's do-nothing session (so far)
Minnesota legislators heading home for spring break are leaving behind a Capitol at a stalemate.
State of play: With six weeks to go until adjournment, lawmakers are miles (and billions of dollars) apart on major issues, including how to spend the $9.25 billion surplus.
The big picture: We've got a divided Legislature in an election year where majority control of both chambers is in play. The lack of political harmony shouldn't come as a surprise.
What they haven't done: Remember those "early session wins" eyed by leaders in both parties, like avoiding a tax increase by backfilling the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund?
- Well, weeks of talks between DFL Gov. Tim Walz, DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Republican Leader Jeremy Miller have led to little to no public progress.
Plus: The release of "omnibus" spending bills is further spotlighting the gulfs between the two chambers on everything from education to funding police choppers.
Between the lines: The budget is set in odd-numbered years, so legislators don't have to make any decisions about spending the surplus.
- With control of the Legislature on the line in November, both sides can choose to hold out to see if the political odds shift in their favor next year. Given the political environment, Republicans have more incentive to wait.
Yes, but: The session hasn't been a complete wash. Lawmakers agreed to pass more than a dozen new laws, including an an audit of the Southwest Rail project, $25 million for ALS support and, just last week, $1 million for avian flu response.
- Each chamber also advanced measures that have backing from their respective majority caucuses (See: Tax cuts in the Senate, $1 billion for frontline workers in the House).
The bottom line: There's still time to find common ground on topics that have interest from both sides, including police recruiting and catalytic converter thefts, or to strike deals that give each side a little of what they want.
- But just like journalists, legislators love a deadline. So don't expect much movement until mid-May.
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