Editorial: State leaders deserve credit for reaching a budget deal

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2019

First-term Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka have done the state a favor by cobbling together a compromise budget agreement in the final hours of the legislative session.

The final bill fails to address many issues that deserve attention, but the two parties both gave ground to find an agreement in the nation’s only split Legislature.

In the end, Walz did not get any gas tax increase after calling for a 20-cent per gallon increase. That size increase wasn’t palatable to the GOP and to many citizens, but it’s unfortunate that some increase couldn’t be agreed upon to help deal with the state’s many deteriorating bridges and highways.

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The GOP did give in to Walz and House Democrats’ wish to make the provider tax permanent. The tax on health-care providers helps fund health care for low income Minnesotans. The final agreement does, however, lower the tax from 2% to 1.8%.

The deal reached Sunday night did not leave enough time for the budget to be passed before the Legislature was required to end the regular session Monday night. That means Walz will call lawmakers back, likely later this week, for a special session to approve the budget.

Unfortunately House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt has said his caucus will push back on the agreement, likely causing the special session to be drawn out longer than it need be. And if House Republicans fail to back a $500 million bonding bill, aimed mainly at highway funding, the bonding bill will fail as a super-majority is required.

And while top leaders signed off on the details, the agreement still has to have the details worked out prior to Walz calling a special session. It’s a massive budget and disagreements will still arise on the details. All sides need to keep their eye on the final prize and ensure the deal doesn’t unravel.

Middle income families should get a bit of tax relief under a GOP provision included in the final version of the budget.

The agreement also gives Walz most of what he wanted when it comes to school funding. Schools will get a 2% boost each of the two years in the budget. Walz had wanted a 3% hike the first year.

Unfortunately the Legislature will not be passing the reasonable gun control measures that were proposed. And the issue of long-term funding for our faltering transportation system was not addressed.

Despite the issues left unaddressed, Minnesotans are served well by having the two sides compromise and come to an agreement.

— The Free Press of Mankato, May 20