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Danielle Nordine, Forum Communications Co., Published April 30 2012

Minnesota lawmakers miss deadline; future is foggy

ST. PAUL – Minnesota lawmakers are unsure what will happen next after they blew past a self-imposed Monday adjournment deadline.

“My crystal ball’s got a little fog in it,” House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said.

The path ahead hinges on three major issues still facing the Legislature: tax relief, public works projects and a new Vikings stadium.

“The three moving parts haven’t changed,” Zellers said.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders have met but disagree on priorities for this session.

“I think the fact that we’re coming back (today) means negotiations are going well,” Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, said.

But Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, rose on the Senate floor Monday to complain that Republicans who lead the body have not done well working with Democrats.

Bonoff questioned “whether this body can compromise, whether this body has the political aptitude to come together on the three major bills still in front of us. ... It looks like we could lose on whether we have a Vikings stadium depending on what we do on these other matters.”

Republicans have said a tax-relief bill should come before votes on a public works borrowing bill or the stadium.

“It’s a great, great big deal for Republicans,” Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said of the tax plan, which would trim taxes for business, veterans and others.

“The priorities should be on jobs and the economy,” Zellers said.

Dayton called a GOP proposal to offset some tax cuts, mainly to businesses, by dipping into the state’s budget reserves “fiscally unsound and unwise.”

“There’s some great differences here,” Senjem said, but added that Republicans would “stand pretty strong” on the plan.

Dayton said talks with leaders about a public works borrowing bill were “secondary” Monday, and they talked some about a new Vikings stadium, mostly about the process of passing a bill.

Senjem said Senate Republicans likely would not accept a public works bonding bill that spends more than $496 million, their highest proposal. He said such a bill would be relatively easy to put together with the governor.

Zellers said a session-ending deal encompassing all the major issues might not work this year, but all the issues should be in play.

“This cannot be a one-issue session,” he said.

“All of these pieces of legislation should stand or fall on their own merit,” House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

Debate on a stadium plan is expected to be lengthy when it hits the full House and Senate. The Legislature could return later to tackle the issue.

“If it takes a special session, I’m not opposed to that,” Hancock said.

Legislators arrived at the Capitol on Monday expecting to meet well into the night, but the House and Senate took lengthy recesses while legislative leader and Dayton met, then adjourned for the day before dinner time. They are to return to session tody, but legislative leaders offered no clue as to whether any of the major issues could be discussed, although they appeared to lean against taking up a stadium before taxes and public works issues are settled.


Don Davis contributed to this story. Davis and Danielle Nordine report for Forum Communications Co.