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Budget bill riding on more than money

It seems likely that the Minnesota is heading to another special session. The state’s budget bill was still in negotiations on Sunday, and unless a miraculous event occurs, it was not likely to be ready to pass in time for today’s deadline.

This budget bill is about much more than money. The Republicans and Democrats are not that far away in total dollars, about a billion in a $52 billion budget for the next two years. There should have been an agreement on target figures for spending and taxes a week ago, so legislators could get down to the fine details of the budget.

But there is much more involved in this deal making than money. Policy and power figure in as well. Republicans are willing to drag out negotiations, for one thing, to halt or delay the adoption of California auto emissions standards and rules. The rules are being drawn up by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency without input from legislators, and an administrative law judge ruled last week that they can. So holding up funding for environmental programs and state parks is the only weapon Republicans have.

Republicans also want Gov. Tim Walz to give up his statewide emergency powers in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also concern about who decides how to spend the $2.8 billion in federal COVID aid coming the state’s way.

There could be horse-trading on issues like police accountability reform, and tax policy to match the federal rules on Payroll Protection Program loans, to keep the state from taxing forgiven PPP loans or extra unemployment benefits.

Marijuana legalization legislation, passed by the House but DOA in the Senate, could also be an issue.

These are complex issues that will take a lot of negotiating over the next couple of weeks before a special session is called.

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