Budget talks to 'shift into high gear'ST. PAUL -- Legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty expect to meet several times today as they try to solve the $3 billion budget deficit.
By: Andrew Tellijohn, State Capitol Bureau, Worthington Daily Globe
ST. PAUL -- Legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty expect to meet several times today as they try to solve the $3 billion budget deficit.
No high-level meetings occurred this morning and no specific meetings were scheduled by noon.
Talks are about to "shift into high gear" as legislators try to craft an agreement to erase a nearly $3 billion deficit by Sunday, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said.
Kelliher said she expects Republican and Democrat leaders to meet several times today.
After two meetings Tuesday, legislative leaders began talking to their colleagues to determine whether they could accept a budget-balancing plan based on deeper spending cuts than earlier planned. The questions are how much spending can be cut and whether the cuts should be permanent or temporary.
Also to be decided is how to pay back schools back after the state delays $1.7 billion in payments to districts.
Lawmakers were moving toward a plan that looks a lot like the $2.7 billion budget-cutting action taken by Pawlenty last summer, but which the state Supreme Court last week said was illegal because it made the cuts without legislative approval.
Kelliher called a preliminary Republican spending-cut plan a "baby step," but said she needs to know more about where the cuts would come to determine whether it has a legitimate chance of bridging the disagreements between Republicans and Democrats.
"It was not a full budget solution," she said. "If they (cuts) are in local government aid, I know how our caucus would feel about that: It would be a big 'no.'"
In addition to the unallotment cuts, Kelliher said, two Republicans approached her with an open mind about adding a tax to alcohol.
Kelliher also refused to rule out attempting to override Pawlenty's Tuesday veto of a budget cut and tax bill. "We're going to keep all options on the table," she said.
However, when the bill passed the House Monday night it lacked enough votes for an override. Democrats wanted to raise taxes more than $400 million, but Pawlenty and most Republicans refuse increase state taxes.
Today is a key for the Legislature because it is the final day lawmakers can pass a bill and be ensured they could get a chance to override it if Pawlenty would issue a veto. That means that if there is no budget-balancing deal, DFL leaders could push through a bill late tonight even without Pawlenty's approval.
The state constitution requires lawmakers to end their 2010 session Monday, although they cannot pass a bill after midnight Sunday.
In the meantime, negotiators have worked out a deal to cut state health programs to help balance the budget and work continued on two outdoors-related bills and an education reform measure.
Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, said that there is little else to do besides balancing the budget.
Tellijohn reports for Forum Communications Co.