Budget deal: Minnesota lawmakers won't rename Lake Calhoun

Minnesota lawmakers won’t change the name of Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis to Bde Maka Ska, waiting on the state Supreme Court to decide the issue instead.

The renaming was not part of an agreement between Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka over the environmental finance bill released Wednesday morning. The so-called “tribunal” of three leaders have been negotiating major swaths of the budget after lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement before the end of the legislative session Monday.

Walz, Hortman and Gazelka have also reached deals on transportation, K-12 education, judiciary and public safety, and taxes, according to documents released by Walz’s office Wednesday.

Among the agreements:

  • A modest income tax cut for middle-income Minnesotans. They have left out proposed tax breaks for people and companies that make donations to private school scholarship funds, something Senate Republicans had sought.
  • A 2 percent per student increase in state aid given to schools in each of the next two years.
  • No new gun control measures. House Democrats had sought to mandate background checks on most gun transfers and wanted to allow police to take guns from people deemed threatening by a judge.
  • The state will hire 67 new prison guards by 2021, after two guards died in 2018 following inmate attacks.
  • $56 million to replace the MNLARS vehicle registration system, and $13 million to reimburse deputy registrars for their costs incurred because of the MNLARS failures.
  • A modest income tax cut for middle-class Minnesotans, but no creation of a Republican-backed tax break for people and companies that donate to private school scholarship funds.

Agreements have not been released for the health and human services, state government, or jobs and the economy budgets.

Walz expects to call a special session that starts Friday to pass all of the budget agreements, but is waiting until he and lawmakers reach deals on the remaining bills.

Renaming public spaces

In April, an appeals court ruled that the state Department of Natural Resources did not have the authority when it changed Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska, the Native American name for the Minneapolis lake. The DNR has appealed the ruling to the Minnesota Supreme Court, and the case is pending.

Before the DNR filed its appeal, House Democrats inserted the name change into their environmental finance bill and passed it out of the House. The Senate left the name change out of its version, meaning the issue would be part of end-of-session negotiations.

The environmental bill was one of eight budget measures that did not pass before Monday night’s adjournment. Lawmakers will need to return in special session to approve the bills, which could happen as early as Friday.

But first, Walz, Hortman and Gazelka have been working out the details in private talks.

Included in the environmental deal: renaming the St. Croix Water Trail and facilities after former Vice President Walter Mondale.

House Democrats had initially tried to rename Interstate State Park in Taylors Falls after Mondale. After facing local opposition, they pivoted to St. Croix State Park near Hinckley, but faced pushback there too.

The renaming of the trail and park facilities is a compromise to honor Mondale, who played a key role in getting the St. Croix River designated as a national scenic riverway with federal protections.