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Minnesota budget talks resume

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt leads a group of fellow Republicans to the governor's office Monday morning, May 19, 2017, to resume budget talks. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL—Minnesota legislative leaders and the governor are back in negotiations to finish a $46 billion, two-year budget, but they are not telling the public about their decisions.

Budget negotiations resumed Friday, May 19, but leaders were tight-lipped about their first closed-door meeting in two days. Late Friday morning, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said they had placed a "cone of silence" on their discussions.

However, KSTP-TV reporter Tom Hauser interviewed Dayton for his Sunday "At Issue" show before the cone was lowered.

"Gov. Dayton says GOP lawmakers made a 'serious' budget offer this morning," Hauser tweeted. "He was delivering a counteroffer shortly after our interview."

Dayton and many lawmakers said they were concerned that the Legislature cannot finish by its constitutionally mandated midnight Monday deadline. The governor said the deadline is "hanging by a thread."

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, an old hand at budget talks, said it is becoming logistically difficult to finish bills on time.

The GOP-controlled Legislature has passed 10 budget bills, which Democrat Dayton vetoed. Lawmakers are preparing a new round of spending bills to send to the governor if talks do not go well.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said Thursday night that he wanted to give Dayton a new budget offer in an attempt to move talks ahead. Daudt balked at the idea but said he would hear out Gazelka.

The two sides sat without talking Thursday (other than a telephone call between Gazelka and the governor) waiting for the other side to make a move. Neither did until Friday morning.

At stake is funding for nearly all state government programs. If lawmakers and Dayton do not agree to a budget by the constitutionally required deadline, they will need to go into a special session because without a budget state government could shut down on July 1.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.