Walz calls for agreement on unemployment insurance, ‘hero pay’

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz was expected to call for compromise in the negotiations to rebuild the state’s unemployment insurance fund and pay front-line worker bonuses during his State of the State speech Sunday.

Legislative leaders are stuck on the unemployment insurance issue, causing an automatic tax increase on employers across the country after lawmakers missed a March 15 deadline.

Walz criticized the legislature this week for not reaching agreement and said lawmakers should have resolved both issues in January and that he will provide a way forward during his speech.

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“I would urge us to get it done,” the Democrat said Wednesday. “Because the deadline is really upon us, and it’s simply tax-irresponsible not to deal with it.”

Senate Republicans want to spend $ 2.7 billion to replenish the trust fund. But the House Democrats have tied it to a $ 1 billion proposal to give $ 1,500 checks to frontline workers who defied the pandemic, up from $ 250 million, which both sides agreed last year, which was not paid out.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks at a news conference in the Department of Revenue building on January 26, 2021 in St. Louis.  Paul, Minn.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz speaks at a news conference in the Department of Revenue building on January 26, 2021 in St. Louis. Paul, Minn.
(Anthony Souffle / Star Tribune via AP, file)

Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman said Thursday that lawmakers expect to resume negotiations Monday. She said she is optimistic that they can reach an agreement before April 30, which is when tax payments are due to be paid to employers.

A spokeswoman for Senate Republicans did not respond to a request for comment.

The Democratic governor is also expected to highlight his proposed supplementary budget plan, which includes direct payments of $ 500 for single files and $ 1,000 for common files, which he has dubbed “ballot checks.” His proposal also includes a $ 2.7 billion infrastructure package, in addition to spending on taxes, education and public safety.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz addresses the press on June 3, 2020 in St. Louis.  Paul, Minn.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz addresses the press on June 3, 2020 in St. Louis. Paul, Minn.
(Scott Olson / Getty Images)

Walz’s annual speech will be the last before he faces a tough challenge from Republicans in the November election. He said he would thank “a whole lot of Minnesotans” for defying the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

He was to hand over the address in the Hall of the House for the first time since the pandemic started. In 2020, Walz recorded an abridged version from the governor’s mansion in St. Petersburg. Paul, and he gave last year’s speech from a classroom at Mankato West High School, where he taught before being elected to the U.S. House.

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During the final part of the legislative session, which is adjourned on May 23, lawmakers will have to figure out how to spend the state budget surplus of $ 9.25 billion and more than $ 1 billion in federal pandemic funds. The divided chambers remain far apart in terms of expenditure and policy items. The GOP-controlled Senate is pushing for permanent tax cuts, while the House Democrats are seeking targeted tax deductions and increases in spending.

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