Minnesota Leaders Plan Another Run At Ending Special Session
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota lawmakers planned to regroup Thursday to make another run at passing the major parts of a massive $46 billion budget after making scant headway the day before and missing a self-imposed deadline for finishing their work and going home for the year.
The House and Senate were scheduled to reconvene at noon. Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt expressed optimism after the House broke Wednesday night that lawmakers could finish their work Thursday, thought he didn’t rule out a return after the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
“It could be 12 hours, it could be 18 hours,” Daudt told reporters on the House floor.
However, GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka sounded a less hopeful note.
“We are still trying to work out the details of the global agreement that went sour,” Gazelka said in brief comments as he left the Senate chamber.
Gazelka declined to be specific about how the broad agreement in principle that legislative leaders reached late Monday with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton went off the rails. The plan was for a brief special session ending by 7 a.m. Wednesday. By the time both chambers adjourned Wednesday, lawmakers hadn’t sent any of the five outstanding budget bills to Dayton.
“Different people thought different things should be happening. We’re trying to clear that up,” Gazelka said.
The broad agreement outlined how to use a $1.65 billion surplus. The sides agreed to put $650 million toward tax relief, $50 million to expand preschool offerings and $300 million to fix roads and bridges, with the details to be nailed down in the special session.
Settling those details proved to be harder and more time-consuming than lawmakers anticipated.
The uncertainty provided a reminder of 2005, when then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty immediately called lawmakers back for a special session that stretched on for nearly two months. The Legislature has until July to finish a budget or risk a government shutdown.
Thursday’s agenda includes bills to fund health and human services programs, state government operations and a borrowing bill for public construction projects.
The Legislature sent Dayton five budget bills before the regular session ended Monday, but details of other spending packages that eat up a combined 85 percent of the state’s overall budget didn’t start trickling out until late Tuesday. The language of the health and human services bill wasn’t nailed down until Wednesday evening and the borrowing bill still had not been released.
The Senate approved the tax bill Wednesday afternoon, amending it to allow bars to stay open until 4 a.m. when Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl next year. The House is expected to concur.
Special sessions have become routine at the Legislature. Lawmakers needed a one-day overtime session while setting its last budget in 2015 after Dayton vetoed several spending bills. In 2011, deep disagreements between Dayton and a GOP-controlled Legislature over how to solve a $6 billion shortfall triggered a 20-day government shutdown that ended only after a special session.