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With 4 days left, officials, gov., finding themselves at impasse

Kevin Habeck of Woodbury, center, sells a fishing license Wed-nesday to Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The governor said he will be in touch with state lawmakers this weekend, although he will be fishing near the Canadian border. Tribune photo by Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- Four days remain for Minnesota lawmakers to balance the state budget, but little progress was evident Wednesday as they debated the second major bill in three days headed to a governor's veto.

Also Wednesday, Gov. Tim Pawlenty bought a fishing license before this weekend's Governor's Fishing Opener, not hampered by budget balancing talks. Later, Pawlenty hosted legislative leaders in the day's only high-level negotiations.

"There is not a plan," House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said upon leaving the talks Wednesday evening. "There are some ideas."

Like last year when Pawlenty vetoed a last-minute tax increase plan, there is no agreement on how to balance a nearly $3 billion budget deficit.

Last summer, Pawlenty cut spending on his own, but last week the Minnesota Supreme Court said his actions were illegal, forcing lawmakers to revisit the $2.5 billion in "unallotment" cuts and fill another $500 million the deficit has grown since then.

On Monday, the Democratic-controlled Legislature passed a bill that contained more than $400 million in tax increases, even after Pawlenty said he would veto it. He vetoed it Tuesday.

On Wednesday, DFL leaders pushed a health care bill that contains several things Pawlenty does not like, including a variety of surcharges. He also promises to veto that measure, too.

Pawlenty and legislative leaders expect to meet today to further discuss balancing the budget, an issue that so far has produced little specific agreement.

The state constitution requires lawmakers to end their 2010 session Monday, although they cannot pass bills after midnight Sunday.

Pawlenty will be at Kabetogama Lake, one of four lakes that make up Voyageurs National Park, in extreme northern Minnesota for the traditional Governor's Fishing Opener this weekend. He said he will be in touch with his office and legislative leaders as needed, and will be an hour's plane ride away if needed to wrap up budget talks.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.