Uncertainty loomed at the Capitol as the Minnesota Legislature adjourned the 2022 legislative session. Despite a $9.25 billion budget forecast, neither body could agree on what to do with the record-setting surplus. Questions about a special session never received answers as legislators packed their bags to go home in preparation for the 2022 campaign season.
A few weeks prior, Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) stood side-by-side with Governor Tim Walz to announce an agreed upon budget framework. Prospects for an orderly end-of-session seemed promising as leadership announced a $4 billion tax deal, $4 billion in state spending, and a $1.4 billion bonding bill – a deal that everyone, in theory, could agree to.
In practice, however, the legislators would need to carve out compromise from a situation where little could be found. The Health and Human Services Conference Committee, for example, was charged with detailing a $1 billion agreement of the $4 billion state spending target. The two sides’ proposals couldn’t have been more different.
The House proposal prioritized early childhood initiatives, specifically in mental health services, as well as additional funding for expanded statewide health programs. The Senate offers invested almost entirely in workforce shortages, especially in eldercare services and programs for the disabled.
The House and Senate exchanged several offers in an effort to inch closer to a compromise, but never finalized a deal before the May 22 midnight deadline. Similarly, deals on E-12 education, public safety, and transportation bills, not to mention a compromise on a bonding bill for new capital improvement projects, were never reached. Details of a tax bill were announced, but the House would not pass the bill without Senate agreement on the spending bills.
As the clock on the session expired, no deal had been made. No tax bill. No spending deal. The record-setting budget surplus now sits on the bottom line until the legislature reconvenes. Right now, nobody knows when that will be.
The Speaker of the House supports a special session to finish their work. The Senate Majority Leader does not. Gov. Walz said he was open to calling a special session, but only if both sides come to an agreement to tie up loose ends on the spending bills.
The legislature did pass several important items during the regular session. The legislature authorized hero pay for over half a million frontline workers in Minnesota, in tandem with a multibillion dollar deal to refill the state’s unemployment insurance fund. The extension of the reinsurance program in Minnesota needed to be addressed this year and was. It included a critical provision to allow patients to spread out copay payments on their deductible throughout the calendar year.
But with the largest budget surplus in state history and countless hours stakeholders spent advocating for something, the lack of an end-of-session deal leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many Minnesotans. Despite lobbying efforts throughout session, especially for investments in early childcare and expansion of school mental health services, to see all that work result in nothing this year is disheartening at best.
Unless there is a special session, the legislature will reconvene in January of 2023. The 93rd Minnesota State Legislature will certainly look different than the 92nd, as many legislators will not make a return trip back to St. Paul either by their own choice or that of their constituents.