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With self-imposed deadline gone, Legislature still piecing together budget

By Ricky Campbell
The sun rises on the Capitol as the House debates the special session omnibus education finance bill May 24. Photo by Paul Battaglia

When Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer, and Republican leaders House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) announced they had reached a budget agreement with 15 minutes left in the 2017 legislative session, but warned they needed a special session, they attached a self-imposed deadline to the overtime: “no later than 7 a.m.” Wednesday.

The sun rose on Wednesday with the House still debating a $650 million tax relief bill, which it passed. Then 7 a.m. came and went — and the biennium plan on how the state should prioritize its services, programs and infrastructure was still in limbo.

After passing the taxes bill, the House waited until 2:30 p.m. to reconvene for debate on what Rep. Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), the House Transportation Finance Committee chair, called, “the largest, most robust transportation bill in the history of the state of Minnesota.” The House passed the omnibus transportation finance SS HF3 bill 74-54.

Down the hall, the Senate passed the tax bill with an amendment allowing bars to close at 4 a.m. the Monday after the Super Bowl, which means the bill must go back to the House for approval.

The Senate also took up — and paused debate — on an education finance package after passing a labor standards bill.

Neither body has taken up a massive health and human services budget bill or the omnibus state government finance bill. There’s also a $1 billion capital investment bill awaiting action.

Both chambers adjourned for the day around 7 p.m. and will return at approximately noon on Thursday.

There are a dozen budget-related bills. Both chambers passed six — agriculture, higher education, Legacy, environment, economic development and public safety — in the regular session, sending them to Dayton’s desk. The ones that remain, however, make up a giant chunk of the state’s resources and, with many policy provisions, create contentious debates and negotiations. 

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