With less than 48 hours to go until the end of the legislative session, what had looked like progress toward a deal on a nearly $3 billion budget deficit has stalled. Republicans are objecting to a health care plan that Democrats argue is central to a budget compromise. Democrats are pushing for expansion of Medicaid under the federal health care overhaul. It would increase federal funding to cover low income Minnesotans but the state would also have to put up more money.
DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich Sertich said Republicans are universally opposed to the idea. He said after a conference call with Pawlenty that the talks "took a step back" because Republicans in the House and Senate are unwavering in their proposal.
"They want to say no to everything that's on the table that the majority parties think is necessary for the end of a successful session," Sertich said. "They're saying no to any federal health care reform and getting any tax dollars from Washington and that's a big concern."
Republicans say they're concerned about the cost of the plan and worry that it's a pathway to "socialized medicine."
Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers said he's concerned about the cost but said it's the principle of accepting money under the new federal health overhaul that is prompting GOP opposition:
"Actually having Minnesota be the first state or one of the first state to sign up for ObamaCare has not been something that anyone in our caucus has supported at any point this session," Zellers said.
Gov. Pawlenty's spokesman Brian McClung issued a statement saying he examined the DFL plan and doesn't like it.
"The Governor's reasons include the surcharges in the proposal and potential long-term financial obligations to the state," McClung wrote in a statement.
The health care plan is a just one piece of a larger negotiation to settle a nearly $3 billion budget deficit but DFLers say it as a key piece in the deal. They have pretty much agreed to Pawlenty's level of spending cuts and a payment delay to schools. Sertich and DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher both say Pawlenty should return to St. Paul as soon as he's done fishing this morning. His spokesman said Pawlenty is willing to return to St. Paul but wouldn't say when he would do so.
Lawmakers have until midnight Sunday to pass legislation.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty reportedly had a successful outing on this morning on Lake Kabetogama, the site of the 62nd annual governor's fishing opener.
Here's the report from the governor's staff:
After leaving the dock at 7:15 a.m., Governor Tim Pawlenty caught his first walleye on Lake Kabetogama at about 7:55 a.m. The 14 inch fish weighed about a pound. The Governor caught his second walleye about 10 minutes later, also about a pound. Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau caught a one pound walleye around 7:30 a.m. First Lady Mary Pawlenty caught her first walleye at about 7:50 a.m.
Back at the Capitol, an agreement to erase a nearly $3 billion budget deficit and end the session on time was more elusive. DFL House leaders said they asked the governor to return to St. paul as soon as possible today to resume negotiations.
Legislators are digging in their heels over a health care proposal that continues to hold up an end-of session budget agreement.
DFL House and Senate leaders want to leverage federal money to expand Medicaid coverage to Minnesotans currently covered by two state programs. But Governor Pawlenty and other Republicans are resisting the move. During a news conference today, House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Zellers repeatedly referred to the federal money as "Obamacare." He said DFLers leaders shouldn't be shocked at Republican opposition to the proposal.
"It shows how much the majority hasn't been listening to us all session," Zellers said.
But DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said Republicans are putting politics before policy. He said their rhetoric could get in the way of a solution to end session on time.
"If people try to take national politics, tea party politics and bring that into the discussion, because that's not what we're talking about," Sertich said. "We're not talking about the mandate. We're not talking about what's going on in Washington. We're talking about a good deal for Minnesotans and getting their tax dollars back to Minnesota."
Sertich added that it would be unwise to hold up the budget and session for a handful of minority members.
Posted at 2:52 PM on May 15, 2010
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: MN Legislature
With the end of the 2010 session rapidly approaching, a Minnesota Senate committee today began considering a second bonding bill.
Gov. Pawlenty signed a $680 million bonding bill back in March. He trimmed the package of construction projects down from $1 billion using line item vetoes. DFL Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon says his new $313 million bonding bill includes what was removed from the earlier measure.
"It would make alive all of the vetoed projects. You know, I think the governor the second time around would allow some of those to pass. But at this point just we're sort of feeling our way on this to see if something can be worked out."
The Senate finance committee was expected to consider several amendments to make the bill even bigger. Senate Republican Minority leader David Senjem says he can't understand how anyone can consider more borrowing when the state's cash reserves are dried up.
DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said he doesn't think there will be a second bonding bill.
Gov. Pawlenty returned to the Capitol this evening, just in time for a scheduled 5:00 p.m. meeting with legislative leaders.
Pawlenty flew back to St. Paul after attending the annual governor's fishing opener at Lake Kabetogama near the Canadian border. With time running out in the session to solve a nearly $3 billion state budget deficit, the Republican governor gave reporters a quick assessment of the ongoing negotiations.
"I think the outline on kind of the budget situation is in focus," Pawlenty said. "But the hang up seems to be this health care issue. There's just very strong disagreement between the Republicans and Democrats on various health care proposals."
DFL leaders want to leverage some available federal health care money to provide Medicaid coverage to low income Minnesotans currently covered by two state programs. Pawlenty and House Republicans are resisting the move.
"We've been going around and around on the same issues now for several days. We need to find a new way out of the box."
Still, Pawlenty said his focus is on the negotiations and not the what if scenarios of a lingering impasse.
"We'd like to get a deal on a bipartisan basis, get this done in timely, orderly fashion," he said. "And that's what we're going to try to do over next 24 hours."