Minnesota House Launches Into Contentious Budget Debate

Minnesota Capitol

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota House launched into a long, contentious debate Thursday as it held its first votes on big-budget bills that lawmakers were unable to pass before time ran out on the year’s regular session last month.

The House had four bills teed up for final floor votes. But minority House Republicans were unhappy with being shut out of the closed-door negotiations between House Democrats and Senate Republicans that shaped them. And they were ready to show it by forcing a lengthy debate that was expected to last into the night. They filed about 60 amendments in advance.

“I think we’re going to have a bumpy ride in the Minnesota House,” Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman, of Brooklyn Park, told WCCO Radio on Thursday morning before the debate began. “The House minority is determined to make things take a little bit longer than they need to, but we’ll get it done no matter how long it takes.”

An angry House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, of Crown, blamed Democrats for disregarding GOP concerns while a narrow group of committee chairs worked out the details in private, and he vowed to vet all of the bills thoroughly on the floor.

Democratic House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, of Golden Valley, countered Daudt’s assertions, saying the proposals in the bills got a thorough public airing during the regular session.

“The bills that we are taking up today represent a bipartisan agreement with your Republican colleagues in the Senate — our Republican colleagues in the Senate. It represents an agreement with the executive branch,” Winkler told the chamber. “The only thing standing in the way of this budget getting passed at this point in time is the actions of the minority caucus in the Minnesota House.”

Daudt and his fellow Republicans put up their first long fight over the commerce bill as they tried to add a reauthorization of the state’s 4-year-old health care reinsurance program. They said it’s has been a big success at holding down premiums, and that Minnesota residents face steep increases unless the program is extended. Democrats consider it a giveaway to insurance companies.

Legislators are under pressure to get the budget bills passed to avert at least a partial government shutdown on July 1 when the old budget expires.

Hortman told WCCO she wasn’t concerned about a shutdown. The speaker said nine of the 14 budget bills were essentially wrapped up. But at least a couple still needs intervention by top leaders, she said, including the public safety budget, which Democrats say should include new police accountability measures to build on those passed last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

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