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Can legislative leaders, governor meet self-imposed deadline for budget targets?

Gov. Tim Walz said a morning meeting with House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka was “positive,” as they try to work out budget differences with two weeks to go in the legislative session. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Emerging from behind closed doors shortly after noon, Gov. Tim Walz and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) offered up variations on a theme – while talks between the administration and legislative leadership are cordial, ideology is the stumbling block for budget negotiations.

Do you build a budget based on the resources you believe you have or based on what you hope to achieve?

For Walz, that approach is the latter and utilizes what he described as evidence-based budgeting based on best practices as developed by Pew Research.

“We set our budgeting targets based on what Minnesotans needed. What would it take to make sure the special ed cross subsidy doesn’t drain off from our schools? What would it take to keep the 4,000 pre-K spots?” Walz explained.

[WATCH: Walz, Senate leaders comment after morning meeting]

Walz, Gazelka and House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) met again in the afternoon — but provided no new updates — and are scheduled to get back together at 7 p.m.

Monday is the second of three self-imposed deadlines set by the governor and legislative leaders in February: when fiscal targets are to be provided to conference committee chairs. Conferees are to complete their work by May 13.

Gazelka describe the Senate approach as beginning with the expected base and working backwards.

“We build a budget with the resources that we have. It happens to be a 5 percent increase,” he said. “We take that number and work down and prioritize what is most important for Minnesota and what is it that maybe we don’t need to do or can do differently.”

House Speaker Melissa Hortman speaks with the media after a Monday morning meeting with Gov. Tim Walz and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka as the trio tries to work out budget differences. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Both sides took aim at assumptions that exist in each other’s budgeting.

Walz stated Republicans were basing some budget assumptions on inclusion of funds from the Provider Tax while also saying they opposed the tax’s renewal, which expires at the end of this year.

Gazelka pointed to spending based on the governor’s proposed gas tax, something the Senate leader said adamantly would not happen this year.

Hortman avoided the fray, simply stating that she remains optimistic leadership would reach an agreement on spending targets.

Conference committees began working to resolve differences between Senate and House spending packages last week.

The groups have until a constitutional deadline of May 20 to pass budget bills for the governor to sign.

— Stay tuned for updates as talks continue later today.


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