A failed week: Minnesota lawmakers head to brink of shutdown

Minnesota lawmakers will end the first week of their special session without getting any budget bills to Gov. Tim Walz's desk, taking state government to the brink of a shutdown.

House Republicans spent Friday filibustering budget bills for the second straight day, frustrated that majority House Democrats and Senate Republicans left them out of negotiations. Meanwhile, the Senate adjourned Friday afternoon, with no plans to return until Monday.

When lawmakers return next week, they'll have 10 days to pass the $52 billion budget and avoid a July 1 government shutdown. If not, nearly 38,000 state workers will get laid off, road projects will grind to a halt, and state parks and the Minnesota Zoo will close.

Two things are causing the delay: while the House GOP is filibustering bills that have made it to the House floor, several of the biggest spending measures aren't yet finished.

"You are being deceived into believing this is somehow our fault," said state Rep. Anne Neu Brindley, R-North Branch. "We’re not wasting anybody’s time. You still don’t have the budget done."

Lawmakers are in a special session because they couldn't finish the budget by May 17, when the regular session ended.

Money isn't the problem; the state is flush with cash. Tax collections are running above expectations, and Minnesota is receiving $2.8 billion in federal stimulus money. Instead, the biggest sticking points are around policy, including public safety funding and police oversight.

Just seven of the 14 budget bills have made it to either the House or Senate floor, though lawmakers haven't yet taken a vote on any of them.

The other seven bills -- including health and human services and K-12 education, the biggest spending areas -- haven't been made public. Some aren't done. Aides for Gov. Tim Walz and top lawmakers said the parties were negotiating in private Friday afternoon.

"There’s no activity that we plan to pick up that wouldn’t be just shuffling papers until Monday," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, told fellow senators before adjourning for the weekend. "We’re still working on a few global agreement issues. Not many."

Senate Democrats appear mostly on board with the agreements that House DFLers and Senate Republicans have hammered out so far. House Republicans, on the other hand, are threatening to keep delaying.

Civil War battle recaps

Friday's seven-hour filibuster of the agriculture budget bill followed a 12-hour delay of the commerce bill Thursday.

Republicans made their speeches to dozens of empty chairs on the Democratic side of the House. GOP speeches veered far afield of the topic at hand, with several lawmakers recounting Civil War battles.

"We’re at the battle of Gettysburg now folks, thanks for following along with me this entire time," said state Rep. Bjorn Olson, R-Elmore, who made a 55-minute speech Friday morning.

Democrats view the delay tactic as both ridiculous and dangerous because of the threat of a government shutdown.

"It is time to move forward and pass these bills, get the work done on behalf of the people of Minnesota," House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said during Thursday's debate.