Legislative leaders, governor discuss budget issues


An hour-long meeting between legislative leaders and Gov. Tim Pawlenty produced some progress on bonding issues, but little agreement on a budget fix.

Leaders of the DFL-controlled House and Senate met with Pawlenty to get a head start on budget negotiations for the upcoming legislative session. The state’s November budget forecast predicted a $1.2 billion deficit for the current biennium.

“There was no big breakthrough in this meeting,” House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (DFL-Mpls) said; however, she said some agreement was reached in non-budget related areas. (WATCH press briefing.)

According to Kelliher, the governor expressed willingness to sign off on several key pieces of legislation she said would be passed within the first two weeks of session. These include a bonding bill; a plan to restore health coverage to those previously covered under General Assistance Medical Care; and a “jobs package” with a focus on small businesses.

Kelliher said the size of the bonding bill was not discussed; however, Pawlenty’s spokesman Brian McClung said the governor will propose a bill in the range of $725 million. McClung expects DFLers to propose a larger bill of $1 billion or more.

McClung also said the governor will propose a budget that solves the $1.2 billion deficit entirely with budget cuts, and would reject any efforts to increase taxes.

Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller (DFL-Mpls) said the governor solved last year’s deficit using one-time accounting shifts and other “gimmicks.” Nevertheless, Pogemiller emphasized that the tone of the meeting had been “positive,” and that the Senate is committed to working with the governor’s proposals.

House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) called the meeting a “good way to start the session.” He said Republicans would offer their own budget-balancing solutions, and would not accept any proposals to increase taxes. (WATCH press briefing.)