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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will return to the House chamber Sunday to deliver his annual State of the State address in front of lawmakers at the Capitol for the first time since the COVID-19 began.

The Democratic governor's address will be the last of his first term before facing a stiff challenge from Republicans in the November election. He's expected to use the address to thank “a whole lot of Minnesotans” for braving the worst of the pandemic before highlighting his budget plans and calling for compromise in the divided Legislature to end the session.

In 2020, Walz taped a shortened version of his annual address from the governor's mansion in St. Paul. He delivered the 2021 address from a classroom at Mankato West High School, where he was a teacher before being elected to the U.S House.

The governor is expected to highlight his proposed supplemental budget plan, which includes direct payments, dubbed “Walz checks,” of $500 to single filers and $1,000 to joint filers. His proposal also includes a $2.7 billion infrastructure package, in addition to tax, education and public safety spending.

The address comes as lawmakers head into the home stretch of the legislative session, where they must figure out how to use the state's $9.25 billion budget surplus and more than $1 billion in federal pandemic funds. The divided chambers remain far apart on spending and policy items weeks before the May 23 adjournment. The GOP-controlled Senate is pushing for permanent income tax cuts, while House Democrats are seeking targeted tax credits and increases in spending.

Legislative leaders also remain deadlocked on whether to replenish the state's unemployment insurance trust fund and pay back the federal government for jobless aid during the pandemic, causing an automatic tax increase on employers statewide after lawmakers missed a March 15 deadline. Senate Republicans want to use $2.7 billion to refill the trust fund. But House Democrats have tied that to a $1 billion proposal for $1,500 checks to front-line workers who braved the pandemic, up from $250 million agreed to by both sides last year that wasn't doled out.

Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman, of Brooklyn Park, told reporters Thursday that legislative leaders expect to resume negotiations Monday. She’s optimistic they can reach a deal by April 30, which is tax payments are due for employers.

Walz has criticized the Legislature for not yet reaching an agreement and said he will provide a path forward during his address.

“I’m going to call for us to get that done,” Walz told reporters Wednesday. “Because the deadline is truly upon us, and it’s simply fiscally irresponsible not to deal with it.”

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

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