Minnesota lawmakers avoid government shutdown as final budget passes

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz with the education bill in his hands. 

Minnesota lawmakers averted a partial government shutdown at midnight Wednesday by sending the final budget bill to Gov. Tim Walz's desk.

Walz said late in the night that he had signed all 12 of the budget bills into law, totaling $52 billion, meaning state government will keep operating as usual beyond Thursday. Lawmakers later passed a tax bill before the House adjourned a two-and-a-half week special session. The Senate said it would come back Friday.

"You always get end of session drama we always say there has to be that one thing," Walz told reporters as he walked the budget bills over to Secretary of State Steve Simon's office near the Capitol. "And it always gets a little bit that way, but I think everybody is committed to getting it done."

Lawmakers took the state to the brink of a shutdown over the past month by dragging their feet on the $52 billion budget. They paved the way to an on-time finish overnight with a deal to end Walz's COVID-19 emergency powers and a compromise on police accountability measures. Walz expressed relief over the move, telling reporters he was the "happiest man in the state."

The last budget bill to pass was the $21 billion K-12 education bill that will direct more money into classrooms and prevent numerous teacher layoffs that would've happened had a deal not been in place.

Debate over the tax bill then stretched well past midnight, with the Senate finally approving it at 3 a.m. The bill includes nearly $1 billion in tax breaks, including full forgiveness of business Paycheck Protection Program loans and the first $10,200 of 2020 unemployment benefits from state taxes. It also sets up a process to hand out $250 million in pandemic bonus pay to some frontline workers.

Two things got added after midnight: a provision allowing Walz to have some authority to manage the COVID pandemic after lawmakers ended his emergency powers, and a ban on lawmakers working for lobbying firms starting in 2023.

The House adjourned the special session, but the Senate only adjourned until Friday. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said Wednesday that the move was to ensure Walz signed the last of the bills. The Senate can't pass any more bills without the House there, but it could fire agency commissioners on its own.