ST. PAUL - Legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty are back at the negotiating table today, after budget-balancing talks broke off late Tuesday and Democrats passed an education bill against the governor's wishes.
With five days remaining to pass bills in the 2008 Legislature, Pawlenty and top lawmakers resumed discussions over how to end the session with a plan to erase a $935 million state budget deficit (in a $34 billion budget) and provide Minnesotans property tax relief.
As has been the case for days, lawmakers said the main barrier to a compromise remains property tax issues. Pawlenty, a Republican, is seeking to limit local governments' ability to raise property taxes while Democrats who control the Legislature say they want a deal that reduces many homeowners' property taxes and increases state payments to cities, counties and townships.
Closed-door talks recessed at about noon, but were expected to resume early this afternoon.
"The tone is focused and productive," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said.
The Legislature must adjourn by Monday.
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said there still is plenty of time to reach agreement with the governor and complete the Legislature's main priority.
"We're back at work," Kelliher said after leaving the governor's office to review property tax documents. "We're hoping for a lot of progress today."
There is no deal yet on property taxes, but Democrats said they have agreed with Pawlenty on the amount of state reserve funds to use to fix the budget as well as a plan to close loopholes used by multi-national corporations to avoid paying Minnesota taxes. Lawmakers said they and Pawlenty agree on just over $300 million in state program spending cuts, but must find another $50 million to cut.
The Legislature late Tuesday approved a one-time boost of $51 per student in state payments to schools, a plan Pawlenty opposes. However, Democratic legislative leaders have said if Pawlenty rejects the bill they may try to overturn the veto in the session's final days.