ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota Legislature’s march to adjournment abruptly halted on Tuesday amid accusations of bad faith budget negotiations.
Republican and Democratic leaders can’t agree on the state’s $45 billion dollar budget, raising serious questions about whether they can finish their work before they are legally required to end the session in less than two weeks.
The Legislature is legally required to stop meeting on May 22. So far, they haven’t passed a single budget bill. And if Tuesday is any indication, it won’t happen soon.
Top Republican leaders are meeting with Democratic Governor Mark Dayton. But they’re frustrated with what appears to them a deliberate “slow-walk” to adjournment.
House and Senate leaders say they’ve been ready for weeks to make a budget deal, but they’re also ready for Plan B: Approving budget bills whether Gov. Dayton likes them or not.
“I’m very disappointed. I’m very frustrated. Because we can do better and Minnesotans benefit when we do this better,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said.
In hearing after hearing, Republicans closed up the biggest spending bills of the year and prepared to lob them at the Governor.
Democrats are calling them “veto missiles.”
“We’re wasting time. And when we do things like this, it forces us into a special session,” Democrat Tim Mahoney of St. Paul said.
Governor Dayton said he will veto any Republican budget bills that he and fellow Democrats haven’t agreed to, meaning all of them. One DFL leader is admonishing the GOP to work harder at compromising.
“I think if the Republicans spent half as much time to find common ground as they spend trying to set up who’s to blame if things fall apart, we would have four budget bills done by the end of the day today,” DFL Minority Leader Melissa Hortman said.
“I think we’ve heard testimony ad nauseum on many of these issues in other committees. And there’s really nothing new here that the members haven’t heard or the public hasn’t been offered,” Tony Cornish said.
Lawmakers must successfully pass a budget within 13 days to pay for every state program. If they don’t, they must do it in a special session very soon afterwards. And if they can’t do that, state government will shut down July 1.