Lawmakers say budget outlook is worsening

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 20, 2001

With 10 days remaining before a government shutdown, Rep.

Wednesday, June 20, 2001

With 10 days remaining before a government shutdown, Rep. Dan Dorman and Sen. Grace Schwab say they are losing optimism for a budget deal between legislative leaders.

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&uot;There’s been no movement that I know of,&uot; Dorman said after the House convened briefly Monday. &uot;I think the likelihood of a shutdown is growing.&uot;

Dorman, R-Albert Lea, said both the House and Senate must meet at least twice a week with a quorum to keep the special session going, but legislators have little to talk about or do until an agreement is reached.

&uot;We’re going through the motions a little bit,&uot; he said, &uot;but I think we all hope something will happen in the next few days – some kind of breakthrough.&uot;

Dorman said he has downgraded his assessment of a possible deal to about a 50-50 chance. He said the tax bill is still the sticking point.

Schwab, R-Albert Lea, said she left the Senate chambers Monday evening shaking her head. The mood during the brief meeting was combative.

&uot;We have a lot of upset senators. It feels a little helpless to be on the sidelines like this,&uot; Schwab said.

From reports she has heard from colleagues, Schwab is skeptical of the kind of offers being considered. One example from Monday was a Senate DFL proposal to spend about $190 million on energy costs for public schools. The original Senate K-12 bill appropriated less than a quarter of that amount.

&uot;Every day I hear something like that. I don’t want a shutdown, but I don’t want to see these wild spending proposals thrown around either,&uot; Schwab said.

Schwab will spend the rest of the week in Florida visiting family, but is prepared to return if a budget deal is struck. She isn’t holding her breath, she said.

&uot;I’m amazed we’ve gone this long, so I don’t think anything would surprise me now. I just hope I recognize the bills when they come before us – whenever that happens,&uot; Schwab said.

Dorman said a government shutdown would be difficult, especially for privately run nursing homes that depend on state reimbursements.

&uot;I’m worried about that because, come July 1, the money isn’t there anymore. I know there are other examples, too,&uot; he said.