By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Top leaders say they may be getting close to a budget deal that pays for everything from schools to public safety to health care programs. Just days ago they were billions of dollars apart, and philosophically on different political planets. But what seemed like a “hard no” this morning is a “maybe” tonight. Talks are scheduled to continue at 9:50 p.m. Friday.

“We’ve been spending day after day working at how to bring two sides together that are pretty far apart,” said Sen. Paul Gazelka, Republican Majority Leader. “And certainly we’ve made progress.”

After weeks of gridlock, and day and night negotiating sessions: Republican leaders emerged with a rare public progress report.

“I will tell you the Governor and the Speaker and myself that it’s been professional and honorable, and really fighting for the principles we believe in– but doing it in a way I think Minnesotans would be proud of,” Gazelka said.

The ongoing talks are held in secrecy behind closed doors. Top leaders are making deals with billions of dollars in public money and little public comment.

Restless lawmakers spent hours at their desks, waiting for a deal to be delivered.

“We turn into a pumpkin Monday at midnight. I wonder if we can just get an update on how the negotiations are going,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt, Republican Minority Leader. “As Tom Petty would say, the waiting is the hardest part. And that’s what we have more ahead of us today.”

Even if lawmakers do reach a budget deal tonight– and they appear to be getting close– they may not have the time to physically write all of the bills, print them, debate and vote by Monday at midnight. That would mean a special session later to finish the 2019 work that they started in January.

Pat Kessler

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