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Minnesota Legislature

Budget talks: Still no deal in sight as 'cone of silence' continues

Hundreds of teachers rallied Saturday in the Capitol Rotunda as lawmakers struggled to break their budget negotiation impasse. The 2019 session must end by midnight Monday. Photo by Andrew VonBank

The trio of leaders in charge of crafting the state’s biennial budget has little to report as of early Saturday evening.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) entered the governor’s office around 5:30 p.m. for negotiations, presumably with Gov. Tim Walz and House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park).

Gazelka emerged roughly 30 minutes later saying, “We’re still working; we’re not going to give up.”

Hortman briefly echoed Gazelka when she left the governor’s office 30 minutes later.

Other than that, the so-called “cone of silence” remains with leaders refusing to offer up what issues are problematic and what kind of progress, if any, has been made. Walz’s press secretary couldn’t say if the governor would be providing any kind of Saturday evening update.

Walz repeated a common theme at an afternoon educator rally in the Capitol Rotunda, telling those in attendance that last November’s elections made it clear Minnesotans want greater state investment in schools, not tax breaks for the wealthy.

While that was happening, the Senate — on a party-line vote —passed a bill that would provide government funding if no budget deal can be reached by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

The House did not address HF2032, as amended. There has been no word on when — or if — the bill will be heard on the House Floor.

“It’s always good to have a backup plan, and that’s all the Keep Minnesota Open bill is,” Sen. Julie Rosen (R-Vernon Center) said in a statement. She chairs the Senate Finance Committee. “Nobody wants a government shutdown, and I am confident that we’ll be able to reach an agreement before it comes to that. This vote today ensures that Minnesota remains funded and essential services are provided.”

“This is not a continuing resolution; this is a new two-year budget for our state. We see this Washington-style politics on the national news every day and we haven’t done that here in Minnesota. It’s our job to put together a responsible two-year budget that addresses the needs of our citizens and our state,” Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said in a statement.

A handful of conference committees met Saturday with some agreeing to same and similar language in their omnibus bills, and public safety conferees taking more public testimony. Little more is expected Sunday if a budget agreement is not reached.

A special session is all but certain at this point because members must constitutionally finish their work by Monday.

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