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24-hour budget debate, plus vote to ban gay marriages

Minnesota Republicans are mounting an around-the-clock campaign to pass budget bills that appeared destined to be vetoed.

The House met through the night, leaving at 6:30 a.m. today, after passing tax, higher education and public school bills. The Senate began its work on the budget at 8 a.m., with lawmakers expecting another late night tonight.

While senators debated reducing the number of state employees this morning, a House committee sent to the full House a bill aimed at forbidding gay marriages. The bill would ask the public to amend the state Constitution next year to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.

The House Rules Committee voted 13-12 in favor of the bill. Republicans made up the majority. Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing cast the only Republican vote against the measure.

At the vote, some in the crowd cried. Two state troopers dragged one protester out of the Capitol meeting room.

The gay-marriage amendment could be put to a full House vote before the Legislature adjourns Monday.

As Tuesday melted into today, it became more apparent with every vote that finishing a budget was becoming more difficult in the regular legislative session. Most of the talk centered on the Legislature adjourning Monday with no budget deal, with work to continue among Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton for a possible late-May or June special session.

If no budget is written by July 1, state government would begin to shut down as the current budget expires.

Republicans offer a $34 billion, two-year budget and refuse to spend any more money. Dayton originally had proposed a $37 billion budget, but on Monday said he would reduce his tax increase plan by half, leaving a $35.8 billion budget target.

Bills being passed are compromises between measures the House and Senate already have passed, with Dayton having very little say in many of the bills.

Senate debate this morning centered on reducing the state workforce 15 percent by 2015, a key to Republican plans to reduce the size of government and not raise taxes.

Each side said the other side would not negotiate on the budget.

"The governor and the minority party should be quiet because they have not been at the negotiating table," Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, said.

Democrats, however, said Parry and other GOP negotiators refused to listen to Dayton's commissioners and would not change bills to meet any Dayton wishes.

In the House overnight, Republican-written bills passed on mostly party-line votes.

A tax bill cutting state aid to local governments, especially to Duluth, St. Paul and Minneapolis, passed 71-58. A higher education bill that chops funding for public colleges and universities won a 69-57 vote, while the public school funding vote was 70-55.