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Legislature adjourns without budget deal

The legislative session has ended without a budget agreement.

Lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton will have to go into overtime to finish enacting a state budget and erase a projected $5 billion deficit. The House and Senate adjourned with no deal to fund state government for the next two years.

The Republican-controlled Legislature sent a complete set of budget bills to the DFL governor, but Dayton promised to veto them without an overall budget agreement. His veto would mean lawmakers must return for a special session or face a possible government shutdown beginning July 1. He gave no indication of when a special session might be called.

“While it’s disappointing, I remain resolved that we will find common ground and compromise on behalf of Minnesotans,” Dayton wrote in a statement.

Republican leaders held out hope that the governor would reconsider his veto threat. They planned a statewide tour Tuesday to shore up support for their budget plan, which they say would balance the budget without new taxes and support private-sector job growth.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said that given the size of the problem, a special session is appropriate. He said it’s “important to not only get the job done, but get it done right.”

“I don’t think that a little bit of overtime in order to finish up … I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Zellers said.

Over the last several days, lawmakers and the governor made slow but steady progress finding areas of agreement on individual budget bills. But overall negotiations remained stalled on the issue of whether to raise taxes.

Last week, Dayton cut his call for a tax increase on high-earning Minnesotans in half, to $1.8 billion, in what he said was an attempt to meet the Republicans halfway. But Republicans insist that their $34 billion budget plan is already a compromise, because it represents a $3.2 billion increase in real General Fund spending from the current biennium.

Both sides agree that the issue has been a lack of compromise; however, they disagree over which side isn’t budging. DFLers pin the blame on Republicans’ refusal to raise taxes, which they say protects only the state’s wealthiest residents.

“There was a significant decision early on to protect the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls).

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