Minnesota governor to extend peacetime emergency

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Gov. Tim Walz will convene the fifth special session of the Minnesota Legislature beginning Monday.

Walz intends to extend the COVID-19 peacetime emergency by 30 days in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 virus is unpredictable, and as we have seen over the past few weeks, it continues to devastate our communities,” Walz said in a statement. “It’s imperative that we have the tools necessary to respond to this public health emergency and protect the health and wellbeing of each and every Minnesotan. This emergency is not over.”

An extension announced Monday would stretch the peacetime emergency for almost eight months, or about 244 days.

COVID-19 has been deemed responsible for the deaths of 2,101 Minnesotans, with 71% of those deaths linked to long-term care or assisted living facilities.

It’s unclear what lawmakers will focus on during next week’s special session.

Little Falls Mayor Greg Zylka, the president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, wrote in an open letter to legislators Wednesday, asking them to pass a bonding bill, calling it “the foundation for economic recovery and prosperity going forward.”

Zylka argued a bonding bill would put thousands of people to work on projects across the state, ranging from construction to infrastructure to economic development.

“Some of you are reluctant to vote for a bonding bill because it will add to the state deficit,” Zylka wrote. “While it is true that taking on additional debt will cost money, the real question is whether the state can afford not to do a bonding bill this year.

“Everything comes with a cost, and the hard truth is that the state’s budget concerns are not going to disappear overnight. As state leaders, you cannot simply ignore ongoing infrastructure and employment needs and expect the state deficit to magically go away,” Zylka wrote.

Zylka urged lawmakers to act quickly, arguing these projects would only become more expensive to fix in the future.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, tweeted Wednesday that he opposed deficit spending.

“MN has a large budget deficit,” Garofalo wrote. “Despite this we may be voting on tax cuts and spending (bonding) that would increase the deficit. There is currently no proposal to pay for these items, setting up larger deficits. I oppose these proposals unless they are paid for. Am I right?”

Minnesota is facing a $4.7 billion projected revenue shortfall for fiscal years 2022-23.

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