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Budget negotiations resume as adjournment deadline looms

Republican Minnesota State Sen. Roger Chamberlain speaks at a news conference on the steps of the Minnesota Capitol with his fellow GOP senators after the Senate passed his bill for preventing a state government shutdown if the Legislature's budget stalemate persists, Saturday, May 18, 2019 in St. Paul, Minn.. The move threw down a challenge to House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz to either agree or take the blame for a shutdown when the current budget expires June 30. Photo: AP/Steve Karnowski
Republican Minnesota State Sen. Roger Chamberlain speaks at a news conference on the steps of the Minnesota Capitol with his fellow GOP senators after the Senate passed his bill for preventing a state government shutdown if the Legislature's budget stalemate persists, Saturday, May 18, 2019 in St. Paul, Minn.. The move threw down a challenge to House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz to either agree or take the blame for a shutdown when the current budget expires June 30.

May 19, 2019 04:47 PM

Top legislative leaders and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz resumed discussions Sunday as the clock ticked down on the 2019 legislative session with no word on whether they're close to a deal for completing their work and no official announcement that a special session will be necessary to finish up.

Neither Walz, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka nor Democratic House Speaker Melissa Hortman have said much publicly during the past week on the progress of their negotiations toward a deal for the next two-year budget. Gazelka and Hortman maintained the "cone of silence" as they arrived for more talks with Walz on Sunday. It was unclear which issues remained unresolved.

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The constitutional deadline for adjournment is Monday night, and none of the major budget bills had been completed by Sunday. The conference committees negotiating those bills were still waiting for the marching orders they needed to finish drafting their legislation.

The Senate on Saturday approved a Republican plan for preventing a state government shutdown if a stalemate persists, throwing down a challenge to House Democrats and Walz to either agree or take the blame for a shutdown when the current budget expires June 30. But Democrats had little to gain by taking a vote on the "lights on" proposal, given that Republicans would then have few incentives to keep negotiating.

RELATED:Senate GOP passses 'lights on' bill; no budget deal in sight

The bill would fund government for up to two years at current projected levels assuming autopilot growth in the budget of about $1.9 billion. It just happens to be close to the Senate GOP's original budget proposal, with none of the tax increases sought by Walz and House Democrats to put more into education, health care, transportation and other programs.

Democratic House Minority Leader Tom Bakk dismissed the gambit as throwing in the towel and accused Republicans of bargaining in bad faith.

Special sessions have been necessary more often than not in recent decades when control of the state government is divided. The last time lawmakers finished a budget on time was under Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in 2013, when Democrats controlled the Legislature. But the three other budgets under Dayton required special sessions.

Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt — who was speaker during the difficult budget negotiations of 2017 but has been on the outside looking in this time — issued a statement Sunday blaming Democrats for forcing a special session by insisting on tax increases.

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Steve Karnowski/Associated Press

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