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Democrats, Republicans win some, lose some in Minnesota budget deal

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and top legislative leaders reached a bipartisan budget deal Sunday in which the governor dropped his proposed gas tax increase but got to keep most of an expiring tax that helps fund health care programs.

Posted: May 19, 2019 5:55 PM
Updated: May 20, 2019 7:24 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and top legislative leaders reached a bipartisan budget deal Sunday in which the governor dropped his proposed gas tax increase but got to keep most of an expiring tax that helps fund health care programs, Republicans got an income tax cut for middle-class Minnesotans and both sides claimed credit for additional spending on education.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz - AP image

Walz, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman announced the details of the two-year budget totaling around $48 billion with not much more than 24 hours to go before Monday night's adjournment deadline for the regular session. Hortman said at a news conference that they plan to hold a special session to finish their work, probably Thursday, and that she hopes they can keep it to just one day.

The governor pointed out that it was the first time in over a decade that state leaders had reached a bipartisan budget agreement before the session ended, saying they proved that divided government can work. Minnesota is the only state this year where Democrats control one chamber of the Legislature and the GOP controls the other.

"We did something here that in 2019 is a big deal — divided government with vastly different visions and vastly different budgets that came together in a manner that was respectful," the former congressman said, drawing a contrast with the partisan dysfunction in Washington.

Special sessions have become necessary more often than not when control of Minnesota's government is divided The last time lawmakers finished a budget without going into overtime was under Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in 2013, when Democrats controlled the Legislature.

Gazelka said both sides in a divided government want to win and don't want to lose.

"That's what we have here today. It was a draw and it was good for Minnesota," Gazelka said.

In the end, Walz got none of the 20-cent gas tax increase and related fee increases he wanted to pay for improved roads and bridges, a proposal that was anathema to Republicans, nor did he get a metro sales tax increase for public transit. But Republicans agreed to preserve a tax on health care providers that helps fund Medicaid and other programs, which they wanted to let expire at the end of the year. That tax will dip from 2% to 1.8% instead.

Republicans got a 0.25% reduction in the second-tier income tax bracket starting in 2022, which they said was the state's first permanent income tax cut for the middle class in nearly 20 years, as a benefit of synching the state's tax code with the 2017 federal tax overhaul, which will make tax filing simpler. The GOP also got to keep a reinsurance program for holding down health insurance premiums for another two years. Democrats wanted to replace it with more direct subsidies.

The deal also includes an increase in per-pupil state aid to public school districts of 2 percent in each year of the two-year budget. A panel will be formed to try to identify $100 million in savings from the rapidly growing health and human services budget.

The three leaders directed the conference committees that are still negotiating the big budget measures of the session to finish their work by 5 p.m. Monday and are leaving it up to those panels, working with state agency heads, to figure out the details. But they said all three must agree on the final versions.

Until Sunday night, none of the leaders had said much publicly during the past week about which issues remained unresolved as they struggled to agree on details of the state's next two-year budget. Walz, Gazelka and Hortman maintained what was dubbed a "cone of silence" as the closed-door talks continued.

The governor acknowledged that the negotiations sometimes became "very, very difficult." But he commended Gazelka for listening and trying to understand his position despite their political differences. He also credited Hortman's "dogged determination to drag us back to that table" when things got tough.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 38136

Reported Deaths: 1508
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12329786
Ramsey4855227
Stearns236119
Dakota233090
Anoka2200109
Nobles16686
Olmsted112415
Washington108240
Mower9512
Rice8427
Scott7154
Clay58738
Kandiyohi5731
Blue Earth4702
Wright4655
Todd4012
Carver3761
Lyon3122
Sherburne3125
Freeborn2920
Steele2311
Watonwan2240
Benton2153
St. Louis17815
Martin1685
Nicollet16612
Cottonwood1360
Goodhue1308
Winona12415
Crow Wing10612
Pine1030
Le Sueur1001
Chisago981
Otter Tail931
McLeod910
Carlton870
Dodge860
Polk812
Chippewa791
Unassigned7737
Isanti720
Waseca680
Douglas640
Itasca6412
Murray630
Meeker611
Morrison591
Becker560
Faribault560
Jackson550
Sibley542
Pennington510
Pipestone442
Renville352
Mille Lacs342
Wabasha330
Rock310
Beltrami300
Brown302
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston250
Swift211
Norman200
Wilkin203
Redwood180
Roseau160
Aitkin150
Cass152
Koochiching151
Wadena150
Big Stone140
Kanabec141
Marshall120
Grant110
Lincoln100
Pope100
Mahnomen81
Clearwater70
Hubbard60
Lake60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Stevens40
Red Lake30
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 31430

Reported Deaths: 720
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6578179
Woodbury324144
Black Hawk228758
Buena Vista171211
Johnson12928
Dallas128129
Linn127782
Marshall104919
Scott79810
Story7753
Pottawattamie72611
Wapello70830
Dubuque69922
Crawford6782
Muscatine63844
Sioux4720
Tama46529
Wright3841
Louisa36113
Jasper32417
Plymouth3225
Warren2861
Dickinson2672
Washington2409
Webster2192
Hamilton1881
Cerro Gordo1781
Boone1481
Clay1340
Clarke1312
Allamakee1284
Mahaska11617
Clinton1131
Shelby1130
Poweshiek1058
Carroll981
Pocahontas961
Bremer946
Des Moines902
Franklin900
Emmet870
Henry863
Cedar841
Taylor790
Monona760
Cherokee751
Floyd752
Hardin750
Marion700
Benton671
Guthrie664
Sac640
Jefferson630
Osceola610
Jones580
Butler552
Hancock540
Humboldt541
Lee542
Harrison530
Buchanan521
Delaware511
Iowa510
Monroe516
Fayette500
Calhoun492
Madison472
Clayton443
Lyon440
Palo Alto410
Davis401
Grundy380
Winneshiek380
Mills370
Mitchell370
Kossuth350
Howard340
Jackson320
Chickasaw310
Lucas314
Greene290
Union280
Winnebago280
Ida240
Cass220
Keokuk211
Van Buren210
Appanoose203
Page200
Worth190
Audubon161
Unassigned160
Adair150
Ringgold150
Decatur110
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont70
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