Cities, counties make last-ditch pitch for special session

A coalition of 17 organizations representing cities, counties and school districts across the state sent a letter this month to Gov. Tim Walz and legislative leaders making a last-ditch plea for a special session.

The state is sitting on billions of dollars in surplus money the organizations say is urgently needed to address a wide variety of needs.

“We can provide many examples of pressing local needs,” the letter says. “Generally, they include labor shortages that hinder the provision of public safety services including police and fire staffing, rapidly escalating costs to provide local services, social services, and the education of Minnesota’s students.”

The letter, signed by organizations ranging from the Association of Metropolitan School Districts to the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and the North Metro Mayors Association, says those issues need immediate attention.

“We are therefore writing to respectfully, yet strongly, encourage the prompt convening of a special session to finalize supplemental budget and tax bills,” the letter continues. “The state’s historically large budget surplus provides an unprecedented opportunity for Minnesota to address the state’s immediate and critical needs.”

Patricia Nauman, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Municipalities, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the needs range from regulating newly legalized THC products to infrastructure and public safety in a time of rising crime.

“We’re partners with the state. We rely on the state for resources and tools to help serve the citizens of the state of Minnesota,” Nauman says. “The need to recruit public safety employees and certainly to retain them … that’s one very pressing need.”

Walz has repeatedly said he’d like to call lawmakers back if they can reach an agreement on what legislation will be considered. However, reaching that agreement is nearly impossible.

“Governor Walz and I met extensively with Senate Majority Leader (Jeremy) Miller throughout session and into June, and in mid-June, Majority Leader Miller said he was not interested in a special session under any circumstances and would not be making any counter offers,” DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in a statement. “He made it clear he did not intend to honor the bipartisan agreement we signed in mid-May to cut taxes for workers and families, make critical investments in schools, health care, and public safety; and set aside money in the state’s rainy day fund. That was a disappointment, but I am continuing to have conversations to try to finalize a bonding bill and am hoping for a quick special session to complete that work.”

In a statement from Miller, he made it clear Republicans have one demand that is a non-starter for Democrats — a huge tax cut package.

“We’re open to a special session as long as it includes giving money back to the people with our $8.5 billion tax relief package, including the full elimination of Social Security taxes and tax cuts for hardworking Minnesotans so folks have more money in their pockets every paycheck, week after week, month after month, year after year.”

Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says there’s almost no chance of a special session.

“The likelihood of a special session now is approximately zero, I’d say, because there’s no bipartisan agreement on a special session,” he said, adding that Republicans are hoping a good election year will give them more leverage in the 2023 session.

Click here to read the coalition’s full letter.