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Final budget talks start with no agreements

ST. PAUL -- A week remains before Minnesota legislators must go home, but there was no progress apparent in the first overall budget negotiating session this morning.

Republican legislative leaders came out of a budget meeting with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton saying what they said when they arrived in St. Paul on Jan. 4: No tax increases. Dayton wants to raise taxes on the 5 percent richest Minnesotans to help balance the budget.

The last of nine spending bills from the House and Senate are to be posted on line today, giving Dayton a full view of how Republicans would like to spend $34 billion. Dayton wants a $37 billion budget, and the two sides disagree on how money is spent, and what is cut.

Lawmakers must adjourn their regular session a week from today. By then they are supposed to pass their eight remaining budget bills (one funding agriculture programs already has become law) and a tax bill.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said he is not thinking about a special session, although most in the Capitol doubt the two side can complete budget talks in the next week.

"Every time we meet we are making progress," Zellers said, although he and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, could point to no specific point where progress was made this morning.

Don 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.