The top Minnesota House Republican said Saturday his caucus will block passage of a public infrastructure borrowing package until the peacetime state of emergency Gov. Tim Walz has used to enact the stay-at-home order and other coronavirus response measures comes to an end.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said his position on the bonding bill reflects a belief that “it’s important that the Legislature be involved in the decisionmaking process” about how to address the pandemic.
“The Legislature is in session,” he said. “ ... We believe we should be working with the governor on the response to COVID-19 and keeping Minnesota safe.”
Walz and legislative leaders in both parties have said they want to pass a borrowing bill that will quickly create jobs through public construction projects, though they remain split on how much debt the state should take on.
Daudt’s opposition could further complicate efforts to reach a deal before the Legislature adjourns May 18: Unlike other measures, the bonding bill needs support of minority parties in both chambers to meet the three-fifths threshold for passage.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said it is “disappointing to see the minority leader threaten to block much-needed investments in local jobs and projects in our communities.”
“Governor Walz and his Administration have served the people of Minnesota well during this crisis, and his thoughtfulness is why Minnesotans overwhelmingly approve of his actions,” she said in a statement. “Ending the peacetime emergency declaration before the emergency has passed would be reckless.”
Saturday’s announcement reflects mounting frustration among Republicans about the DFL governor’s use of executive power during the pandemic. The peacetime state of emergency, initially declared March 13, gives Walz broad authority to respond to the crisis. Actions have included closing schools and nonessential businesses, directing relief to employers and employees and issuing the statewide stay-at-home order, which was recently extended through May 18.
Most governors across the country have used emergency executive powers to respond to the crisis and a federal emergency declaration signed by President Donald Trump remains in effect. A spokesman for Walz defended the administration’s actions, saying the governor is working with legislators and governors from both parties and the White House “to keep Minnesotans safe.”
”The governor is committed to getting Minnesotans back to work safely and he’s asked the Legislature to join him by passing a robust Local Jobs and Projects Plan,” spokesman Teddy Tschann said.
The state of emergency, currently to end May 13, does not require legislative sign off, though lawmakers can vote to end it. House Republicans have made several unsuccessful attempts to pass legislation rescinding the order. The governor can extend the measure every 30 days with approval from an executive council of statewide elected officials, though he must call back the Legislature if he acts again after it has adjourned. Daudt said he would rather see the Legislature remain in session without a state of emergency past May to approve any virus response measures.
“We feel that this has gone on for basically two months now where’s we’ve had unilateral decisionmaking by the executive,” Daudt said. “I feel like more eyes and more minds in this process are going to give us better decisions.”
Daudt said he’s open to passing a bonding bill during a special session later this year if the state of emergency continues through the summer, though he said he also has concerns about high amounts of borrowing given the economic downturn.