Democrats prepare their own budget planParty spars with Pawlenty over tax measures
By: Scott Wente, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL — The Democrat-controlled Legislature could today send Gov. Tim Pawlenty a budget-balancing package he has not agreed to as Minnesota lawmakers enter the final week of the legislative session.
As high-level budget talks stumbled Sunday, legislative leaders were preparing for votes as early as today in the House and Senate on bills aimed at erasing a projected $935 million state budget deficit, if they and Pawlenty fail to reach a compromise.
“We’re still hoping for a negotiated agreement here, but we need to have an orderly end of the session, and so we are also prepared with the bills that need to be sent to the governor to balance the budget ...” House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said.
The governor and lawmakers met for a brief time Sunday evening, but those talks quickly got bogged down by disagreements over property tax relief and other tax measures that could be part of an overall deal that balances the budget and ends the 2008 session.
Legislative tax leaders were scheduled to meet with Pawlenty administration officials to discuss those tax proposals, with more closed-door negotiations possible following that meeting.
If the Legislature sends its own budget-balancing bills to Pawlenty, he would have three days to either sign or veto them. Pawlenty spokesman Alex Carey said “the governor’s not going to let the Democrats raise our taxes and fail to balance the budget.”
“If they send us the bills and take that approach, the bills will be vetoed,” Carey said.
Pawlenty and the DFL-led Legislature both propose erasing the deficit by cutting state spending, using reserve funds and ending some tax incentives used by multi-national corporations. However, they have not reached agreement on those details.
The Legislature must adjourn by May 19.
House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, said it seemed unlikely an overall agreement would be reached by today and questioned Democratic lawmakers’ desire for a compromise.
“I think it’s in their best interest, our best interest and the people’s best interest to have a deal done, but it looks to me like they’re going to try to come close enough for government work and then jam bills to the governor and then try to somehow make him the bad guy with bad-faith negotiating,” Seifert said.
While top lawmakers focused Sunday on a plan to balance the budget, legislative negotiators working on the alternative budget plan, a tax bill and a health care reform package also were expected to complete their work.
Wente works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Daily Globe.