Legislators reflect on special session, budget

ST. PAUL — On Thursday afternoon, Minnesota state legislators were waiting for Gov. Tim Walz to announce a special legislative session. But while the final outcome of this year’s budget process remains to be seen, local legislators were able to give their perspective on the end of the session so far.

“There’s always variables,” that could affect the outcome of a special session, said Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls. However, he said, so far it doesn’t look like anyone is trying to push things to the point of a state shutdown. “I would think right now, we’re in a pretty good position,” Dahms said.

A key factor, he said, was that Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, were able to come to an agreement on budget targets.

“That’s a big step forward” in terms of getting things done, Dahms said.

Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, was less positive. Swedzinski said he felt the way the session ended was unfortunate, with negotiations being done behind closed doors. The outcome of leadership negotiations left legislators to have meetings “on what was essentially decided,” he said.

Swedzinski said he also had concerns about parts of the budget deal, with one example being the state’s health care provider tax getting renewed. The provider tax helps fund health care programs like MinnesotaCare. But Swedzinski said, “That’s not necessarily going after the cost” of health care in the state.

For returning legislators, part of the 2019 session has been adjusting to new leadership in the House and a new governor. Dahms said he thought House and Senate leaders have done a good job working together to try and get things done.

Dahms and Swedzinski said there were differences in approach between Walz and previous governor Mark Dayton.

“Governor Walz is much more hands-on,” Dahms said.

“A lot of people feel he is even more left-leaning than Dayton was,” Swedzinski said.