Session Review: Senate Republicans End Emergency Powers, Provide $1B in Tax Cuts, Avoid Shutdown

The 2021 final budget bills for education and taxes cleared both the House and the Senate today, providing the state with a balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes, recovers from COVID,and supports families. Meeting the midnight deadline means the state avoids a shutdown over anti-police reforms or higher taxes, two major demands democrats in the house and Governor Walz held onto despite a surplus of cash and strong public support for police.  

“For the fifth year in a row, Senate Republicans have stopped harmful and excessive tax increases on Minnesotans,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R- East Gull Lake) said. “It makes no sense to raise taxes on hard-working families and small businesses after a year of sacrifice, and especially when state government turned surplus and received billions in stimulus funds from the federal government. We held strong against Gov. Walz demands and instead, delivered nearly a billion dollars in tax relief.”  

Watch the press conference from Senate Majority Leader Gazelka on Wednesday afternoon

Senate Republicans since beginning their majority in 2017 have stopped all tax increases from two governors. Taxes on employees, businesses, families, recreation, transportation, gas, have been proposed in various means and amounts under Governor Dayton, Governor Walz, and from Legislative Democrats. To help the economy recover from COVID, Senate Republicans negotiated nearly $1 billion in tax relief to help businesses and employees most impacted by COVID shutdowns and layoffs. The legislature also has control over $2.3 billion in federal COVID relief funding, marking a departure from most states that left the money in their governor’s control.  

Early on Tuesday morning, the House and Senate voted to terminate the governor’s emergency powers. “The Governor has held onto these powers far too long and used them far too broadly,” Gazelka said.“We’ve been clear that we were going to end these powers, so I’m not surprised Walz tried to outmaneuver us – but he does not get to say he let them go. The emergency is over because the Senate and the House said so.” 

In a budget agreement announced in May, Gazelka, Hortman, and Walz agreed to broad budget numbers with some details to be worked out by the legislative leaders. Public safety remained a difficult budget area, with Democrats and the People of Color and Indigenous caucus threatening to withhold all budget bills if their demands weren’t met.  

Ultimately, the public safety budget took major GOP demands on increasing pay for state law enforcement, making it a crime to publish home addresses of law enforcement, a practice known as “doxing,” providing sexual assault and rape victims justice by closing  the “voluntary intoxication” loophole, protecting drug informants, and funds additional Violent Crime Enforcement Teams to keep Minnesotans safe. The bill took the consensus police accountability measures like reforming use of no-knock warrants, allowing sign and release warrants for low-level offenses, and allowing better tracking of police misconduct through the Police Officer Standards and Training Board database.  

“The top priority of our government has always been to ensure the safety of its citizens,” Senator Warren Limmer (R- Maple Grove) Chair of the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary committee said. “This budget meets basic public safety needs, improves public safety, and makes sure there is justice in sentencing.  

On the final day of session, the Senate unanimously passed the education bill. The budget includes the largest increase in student funding to local schools in 15 years, on top of significant increases in the previous two budgets.  

Our philosophy has been consistent from the first day of session: we are going to focus on students, not systems; on parents and families, not lobbyists and institutions,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Roger Chamberlain (R-Lino Lakes). “I am proud to say this education budget achieves those goals. This fantastic bill is a huge victory for Minnesota students, families, teachers, and local schools.” 

Other highlights from the budget bills include:  

  • Continuing of the successful reinsurance program to keep health care affordable, a program Walz and Democrat consistently try to remove to pace the way for single-payer healthcare 
  • Frontline Worker Grant Program working group will determine how to use federal COVID relief funds to benefit workers who were put at risk as they continued to work during the pandemic.  
  • The Jobs budget invests in Minnesota’s nation leading workforce with training programs, enhanced childcare availability, significant investments in developing broadband across the state 
  • $8 billion is dedicated to improving our roads and bridges so we have safe roads and less congestion 
  • Elections were kept secure by stopping Democrat efforts to provide felon voting and automatic voter registration 
  • Home ownership is emphasized through streamlined regulations and investing in programs that increase home ownership. 
  • A compromise eviction moratorium off-ramp was enacted to connects those who need financial help with resources so housing providers can be made whole. 
  • Investments were made for food processing networks, farmers, and protecting natural resources from invasive species. 
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