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Legislature moves forward on budget after breaking standoff

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Legislature moved forward with an environment budget bill Tuesday after leaders broke a standoff that could have shut down state parks before the Independence Day holiday weekend.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced Monday that Republicans had dropped their demand that Gov. Tim Walz abandon his effort to encourage a switchover to electric cars. He told reporters he had assurances that the clean car standards wouldn’t be implemented until 2024, which he said will make it a campaign issue.

The bill funds the Department of Natural Resources, including the state park system, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and other programs. The House Ways and Means committee voted Tuesday to send it to the floor for a vote.

The legislation is one of several bills making up a $52 billion two-year budget that lawmakers must pass before July 1 to avert a partial government shutdown. Bills to fund higher education and projects financed through the state’s Legacy Amendment await the governor’s signature; others are still in the works.

Some of the toughest disputes have involved the public safety budget, and whether to include new policing measures on top of those passed last summer following the death of George Floyd. Another has been Walz’s reliance on emergency powers to manage the pandemic.

Walz, Gazelka and House Speaker Melissa Hortman told reporters they’re confident of finishing before the current budget expires June 30.