Legislature still seeking budget compromise

Published 10:16 am Monday, May 11, 2015

ST. PAUL — In stuffed, stuffy hearing rooms and cool, quiet private offices around the Capitol last week, lawmakers started the arduous process of finding a budget compromise.

Joint House-Senate committees began hashing over the differences in their budget measures with little hope of reaching final agreement until Capitol leaders — Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Gov. Mark Dayton — agree on budget numbers.

So, throughout the week, Bakk, Daudt and Dayton began a series of closed-door meetings to reach an accord.

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By the end of the week, as Daudt said after a meeting with Dayton, “We are still a ways away.”

The governor and the Legislature have until May 18 to agree on a full budget plan or they will face a special session.

Legislative leaders did manage to reach a funding agreement for agriculture and environment programs, and neared a deal on funding for public safety and judiciary programs.

Those two areas are often the locus of bipartisan accord and take up a tiny fraction of the state’s budget of more than $40 billion. The thornier questions revolve around how much to spend on education, transportation, health care and taxes.

Lawmakers are expected to begin their last week in regular session this week with no deal on those tricky issues. All told, those four areas eat up about 90 percent of state spending.

The Legislature and governor did agree that turkey — even in the midst of a virulent outbreak of avian flu — is good eatin’. House members held a turkey burger cookout for lawmakers, legislative staffers, lobbyists and the public Tuesday on the Capitol Mall.