Shortening the session to lengthen election campaigns?


The Easter/Passover break state lawmakers began Tuesday usually signals the halfway point of the Minnesota Legislature’s session. But this year, there are signs that lawmakers could be calling it quits early so they can get started on their 2010 election campaigns.

Consider: The Legislature has already passed and Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed (with line-item vetoes) a bonding bill, the traditional reason for having a session on even-numbered years.

Of course, there’s a $1 billion deficit for the current state budget cycle to deal with, but lawmakers on Monday passed a budget bill that Pawlenty said he’ll sign that eliminates about one-third of that deficit (as long as you squint and don’t count the federal dollars they’re banking on that haven’t been approved yet or the one-time money and shifts they chastised Pawlenty for using in past years.

After passing the General Assistance Medical Care fix their DFL constituencies wanted and seeing Pawlenty veto it, DFL lawmakers found common ground with Pawlenty to keep the program going in a stripped-down fashion for another year or so.

And Pawlenty has said he’ll sign the business and jobs tax breaks that lawmakers passed on Monday as well, so they can go home saying they’ve done what they can to grow the economy there too.

Perhaps more importantly (in their minds, anyway), DFL and Republican party state conventions are coming earlier this year — the end of April and beginning of May — and state legislators who also happen to be gubernatorial wannabes might like to have some time for last-minute campaigning among party delegates.

What’s left to derail an early end to the session? Just the small matter of cutting another $650 million from the state budget, with only K-12 education and Health and Human Services to pick from.

Will DFLers put up a fight to preserve government services for the poor, sick and disabled and education for kids, or has last year’s unallotment show by Pawlenty and the lack of GOP defectors in the House of Representatives cowed them into submission?

Will Pawlenty, spending one out of every three days running for President so far this session, look to make headlines again and burnish his fiscal conservative credentials before exiting the Capitol?

Finally, will anybody do anything to prepare the state to cope with another $6 billion in red ink awaiting the next governor and Legislature when they come back in 2011?