ST. PAUL — Minnesota legislative Republicans are accusing Democratic Gov. Tim Walz of wasting federal coronavirus aid, saying that it should be up to the Legislature instead how federal aid dollars are appropriated.
But an amendment that would have put that power in state legislators’ hands was snuffed on the Senate floor on Tuesday, May 11.
The debate comes more than a year after Walz first instituted his peacetime emergency executive powers, which grant him more control over the state’s coronavirus response. Legislative Republicans have consistently opposed Walz’s long-term use of the peacetime emergency powers, saying that COVID-19 response should be up to the divided state Legislature to negotiate.
Walz has maintained that holding onto his executive powers opens the state up to more federal aid, and allows the state to be nimble in its response, changing coronavirus guidelines and restrictions quickly depending on case numbers without going through long-winded debates in St. Paul.
Now, how Walz has decided to allocate billions in federal coronavirus aid to the state is up for debate, and lawmakers say the debate is urgent with Minnesota expected to receive another $2.83 billion from the American Rescue Act.
After submitting a data request for the executive branch’s spending of federal aid, Senate Republicans are accusing Walz of wasting taxpayer dollars without input from the Legislature. They argue that state legislators are elected with the constitutional duty of overseeing state dollar appropriations — not the governor alone.
State Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, in a Tuesday video statement implored Walz to "understand that the voice of the people is important in federal money decisions."
Referring to federal aid that has flowed into Minnesota since March 2020 as "tremendous amounts of money," Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, on the Senate floor Tuesday introduced a delete-all amendment that would have granted authority to the Legislature to allocate federal aid to the state, like that of the ARA.
“I believe, and I hope we all can believe on this floor, that the Legislature needs to be in control of these federal funds,” she said.
But Rosen’s amendment was quickly snuffed, with Senate Democrats accusing her of breaking Senate rules by the way she introduced her amendment, which struck the previous language of an unrelated bill. Rosen withdrew her amendment.
A spokesperson for the Senate GOP on Tuesday said that she was “not sure” of where the debate goes from here.
Asked about the debate at an unrelated news conference Tuesday afternoon, Walz said, "We wouldn’t have to spend as much of that if there wasn’t so much misinformation out there."