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All quiet on the Minnesota budget front

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

ST. PAUL - Three days remain in the Minnesota legislative session and the Capitol is quiet this morning.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty spoke by telephone late Thursday with House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers and other lawmakers about budget negotiations, but there was no resolution to a nearly $3 billion deficit.

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This morning, Commissioner Tom Hanson of Minnesota Management and Budget, Pawlenty Legislative Director Chris DeLaForest and key finance legislators are discussing the budget further.

Pawlenty is at Lake Kabetogama for the Governor's Fishing Opener, which includes a full day of events today before the governor and others wet their fishing lines early Saturday.

"The governor continues to be available to talk with legislators via phone and is willing to return to St. Paul if needed," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said this morning.

Kelliher said she is confident a deal can be reached on the budget deficit this weekend. Little other works remains on lawmakers' plates.

Legislators have until midnight Sunday to pass bills. If no deal is reached by then, the governor would have to call a special legislative session.

Major remaining issues include:

-- Reworking a vetoed health-care bill that would both cut the budget and provide better care to poor Minnesotans.

-- Figuring out how to pay school districts back after the state delays $1.7 billion in payments, essentially borrowing the money from schools.

-- Deciding just what would be cut as legislators look to basically ratify spending cuts Pawlenty made last year, but the Supreme Court last week said were illegal.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

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