ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Legislators anxious to adjourn on time

By Brian Bakst and Patrick Condon

Associated Press

ST. PAUL — The governor hand-delivered candy to lawmakers, quipping that he wanted to "sweeten the deal." One of his chief antagonists said he was beginning to see the outline of an agreement.

Could the 2007 Legislature be just about done? Right on time?

Well, maybe. Friday was seen as a critical day for settling the state’s two-year budget without requiring a special session after Monday’s adjournment deadline.

ADVERTISEMENT

The vibe around the Capitol seesawed between upbeat and anxious. Gov. Tim Pawlenty opened his weekly radio show to the Animals’ "We Gotta Get Out of This Place."

"We’re upbeat but we’re beat up," said GOP House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, who appeared with other legislative leaders on Twin Cities Public Television’s "Almanac" program.

DFL leaders emerged from Pawlenty’s office shortly after 10 p.m. for about an hour break before talks were set to continue into the night. DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller said the two sides weren’t far apart on money but a deal was elusive.

"I’ve thought for days this was doable like that. It’s not quite like that," said Pogemiller, one of the governor’s main adversaries.

At stake is the size and shape of the budget, which determines how much the state spends on education, prisons and social programs. The final total could end up above $35 billion. A failure would force a special session to set the budget for the fourth straight time.

Negotiations, Pawlenty said, were "at a sensitive stage" and he wouldn’t go into detail.

"It would be good for everybody to finish on time. The deal never really fundamentally changes in these special sessions in June or July. It just ends up ticking everyone off, including the public," the Republican governor said. "All of us have probably promised more than they can deliver so some things are going to have to get thrown overboard."

The major hang-ups are spending for education and health and welfare programs, leading legislators have said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Earlier in the evening, DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the agreement would include all-day kindergarten for more Minnesota schools, more health coverage for uninsured children and a funding stream to preserve wildlife habitats.

"We are going to get a number of our marquee items," Kelliher said on "Almanac."

Seifert said his side could say they succeeded in blocking a number of tax increases and what he called "bloated spending."

"We’re going to end up where everybody can declare some victory," he said.

DFL Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Tom Bakk said the sides also disagreed over whether the state budget would be balanced under the plan they were discussing. Another point of contention was tighter taxation of companies that shelter income through foreign subsidiaries, he said.

Pogemiller sounded more optimistic earlier in the day, when senators and their staff gathered for a lunch-hour potluck.

Pawlenty dropped by the potluck, an annual end-of-session tradition, bearing a carton of caramels. He stood on a folding chair to address the crowd, as some lunched on broccoli-cheese casserole, crock-pot fare and jello salad.

"I told Senator Pogemiller that I didn’t want to come to the potluck empty-handed because they would say that’s how I was approaching negotiations," Pawlenty said. "So I brought some caramels to sweeten the deal."

ADVERTISEMENT

Pawlenty went on to socialize with lawmakers including Sen. LeRoy Stumpf of Thief River Falls, who was back at the Capitol for the first time since April after being hospitalized for chest pains.

Seifert, the Capitol’s leading purveyor of colorful analogies, described the dynamic among lobbyists and legislators as negotiations slowly shrank the size of the overall pot of money that’s in play.

"As the water hole shrinks, the animals start looking at each other differently," Seifert said.

GOP Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem brought a turkey sandwich and a bottle of Dr. Pepper back to Pawlenty’s office as another round of talks started mid-evening.

"I have my breakfast," he said. "I’m ready. Let’s get it done."

What To Read Next
Caitlin and Jason Keck’s two-year term on the American Farm Bureau Federation committee begins next month.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission met on Jan. 5, 2023, to consider the application for Summit Carbon Solutions.
Qualified Minnesota farmers will receive dollar-for-dollar matching money to purchase farmland.
Wanda Patsche, new Farm Camp director, has farmed with her husband near I-90 in southern Minnesota since the 1970s and shares her passion for farming on her blog.