Budget talks still stalled

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 25, 2001

The new budget deal struck Friday between Gov.

Monday, June 25, 2001

The new budget deal struck Friday between Gov. Jesse Ventura and legislative leaders closely resembles the original deal that fell apart a month ago, said Rep. Dan Dorman.

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&uot;I’m shaking my head a little over this new deal,&uot; said Dorman, R-Albert Lea. &uot;I can’t help but wonder what was wrong with this compromise the first time around.&uot;

Dorman said this week’s timeline will be tight, especially given the continuing disagreements over a few spending and policy issues such as welfare reform and transportation.

&uot;Both houses will need to see those bills by Wednesday if we have any chance of getting them passed,&uot; he said. &uot;We’re cutting it pretty close. Any wrinkle this week could throw the whole deal off.&uot;

The pressure has eased somewhat, said Dorman. Though no legislator wants a government shutdown, early reports of the effects of a government shutdown were exaggerated by the media, he said. With recent development from the Attorney General’s Office, a shutdown would affect only about a third of the state’s employees, he said.

&uot;A shutdown wouldn’t be disastrous, though it would cause some inconveniences,&uot; Dorman said.

Gov. Jesse Ventura and the DFL-controlled Senate agreed on a $900 million tax plan and most of the spending and policy issues on Friday. The Republican-controlled House agreed only to Ventura’s tax proposal, but said they still might bring another tax bill forward as an alternative.

The state government will run out of money next Sunday unless lawmakers first approve eight major spending bills.

But on Sunday only the education conference committee met publicly and members did not expect to finish by the end of the day. Only a handful of legislators were around the Capitol.

”I’m certainly disappointed that we haven’t got all the spending bills wrapped up as of this afternoon,” said Pam Wheelock, commissioner of finance and Gov. Jesse Ventura’s chief budget negotiator.

Calling the delay ”confusing and perplexing,” Wheelock explained that the administration is preparing the entire tax bill, but lawmakers are left to draft the spending bills and work out the few remaining compromises. Wheelock said she now hopes committees will finish those bills on Monday.

In the education committee, Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, said there was a tentative agreement Sunday on provisions to increase school accountability and let some teachers be paid on a competitive scale, instead of by seniority. But the House and Senate still differed on funding issues and a provision that would require school districts to have balanced budgets.

House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, said he still expects the tax bill – which would deliver double-digit property tax relief to the owners of homes, apartments, businesses, farms and cabins – to be completed and approved on Tuesday or Wednesday. The rest of the spending bills will be voted on later in the week, he said.

In a worst case scenario, Pawlenty said lawmakers will take an ”a la carte” approach – passing only those bills that are considered imperative and buying time to finish the others.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.