Budget talks continue with MN Legislature facing Monday deadline

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz - AP image

More talk about need for a special session.

Posted: May 18, 2019 2:55 PM
Updated: May 19, 2019 7:22 AM

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Legislature reconvened Saturday with no budget deal in sight, Monday night's adjournment deadline coming up fast and talk growing of the need for a special session.

More closed-door talks were expected Saturday among Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and the top leaders of the Senate Republican and House Democratic majorities. They've largely maintained their "cone of silence" since Monday, so it hasn't been clear what their remaining differences over taxes, spending and policy might be.

"Today will be a very dynamic day," Deputy Majority Leader Michelle Benson told her fellow senators during a brief morning floor session, saying she appreciated their understanding for the lack of certainty on how the day would unfold.

The Senate was poised to vote Saturday on a "lights on" bill to keep state government running at projected spending levels if there's no deal by the time the current budget runs out June 30.

That happens to be close to the Senate GOP's original budget proposal, which included none of the tax increases sought by Walz and House Democrats to pay for more investments in education, health care and other programs. It would also let Republicans blame Democrats, if they reject the extension, for any resulting government shutdown.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Julie Rosen, who's been involved in the private negotiations, walked back a statement she made during a hearing on the bill Thursday when she said the talks were "somewhat at an impasse."

"I wouldn't call it an impasse," Rosen told The Associated Press on Saturday. "It's more a process of negotiations between two sides that are very far apart on budgets and negotiations."

The conference committees negotiating the final major budget bills were still waiting Saturday for the marching orders they need to finish drafting their legislation.

It has become more the rule than the exception in recent decades for the Legislature to go into overtime to finish its two-year budgets, especially when control of state government is divided, as it is now. The last time lawmakers finished a budget on time was under Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in 2013, when Democrats controlled both chambers. But the three other budgets under Dayton required special sessions, including the bitter fight of 2011, which led to a 20-day partial government shutdown.

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