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Minnesota Capitol In Partisan Gridlock Again As Session's End Approaches

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Pressure is mounting on state lawmakers with less than a month remaining, and little to show for it.

Not only is there no agreement on how to pay for government services from state parks to local schools, Republicans and Democrats are so far apart it might as well be Venus and Mars.

Republican leaders say Democrats are spending too much -- over and above the state's billion-dollar surplus -- raising taxes and fees to do it. And they're tapping the brakes.

"What about the taxpayer? I mean, everything that we do affects the person that actually has to pay it. And that's the person that I'm going to pay attention to as we're going to the finish," said Sen. Paul Gazelka, GOP majority leader.

Democrats and Governor Tim Walz are spending significant new money on classrooms, roads and bridges, and health care programs.

"There is no way that we can make a significant difference for Minnesota's kids, for people's health care, for transportation, for higher education," said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL majority leader. "There's no way that we can make a difference in any of those areas without some new revenue in some places."

Meanwhile Republicans boycotted a meeting -- for the second time -- to fund protections for the state's election system, drawing a rebuke from Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.

"To those Senators who are not here again today, you're doing a great disservice to Minnesota," Simon said.

Minnesota's new governor called it a "theater of the absurd," and said what's happened so far is not a good sign for the month ahead.

"That could make for a very hard four weeks," Walz said.

Senate Republicans late Tuesday said Democrats held that election committee meeting even though they were not able to attend. Just like in Washington, that's the kind of political sniping we've seen at the Capitol for years now.

Here is a statement from Republican Senator Mary Kiffmeyer on HAVA Conference Committee:

If cybersecurity was so urgent, Secretary Simon would have taken the $1.5 million right away. But that hasn't stopped him from working on cybersecurity already. And Minnesota's elections are secure. Because we use paper ballots, the votes cannot be hacked. We always have a hard copy of the election results available for inspection. We will continue to examine the use of the Secretary of State's office funds to be sure his priority is on election security and integrity.

The Senate was never included in the scheduling discussions on this conference committee today, and we informed the House and Secretary's office we could not be there should they decide to host it. They decided to meet anyway.


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