Budget talks to resume this afternoonby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Gov. Tim Pawlenty and legislative leaders plan to resume budget negotiations this afternoon after breaking off talks at 11 p.m. Saturday night.
The governor and legislative leaders met behind closed doors for a total of five hours on Saturday. They didn't reach an agreement, but the said they're closer to resolving their differences on erasing the state's $935 million projected budget deficit.
One sticking point is whether to use money from a health care fund to balance the budget. The governor said he wants to use $125 million from the fund, something DFL legislative leaders object to.
"The Senate DFL has indicated that they don't want to use it for certain things, we want to use it for certain things so that's an obstacle," Pawlenty said. "As we tie that into the discussion of health care reform overall there may be some opportunities there but we'll have to wait and see."
Other roadblocks include disagreement over which state programs are cut from the budget and the best way to keep property taxes in check. Pawlenty said there's been a willingness to get to an agreement, but there is still some work to do.
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, said she's optimistic a deal can be reached, especially since everyone is in the same room talking.
"Our commitment is for a balanced budget to be signed by the governor, and it seems like a good sign that we're still a couple of weekends out here from what is supposed to be the final adjournment day of this legislative session, so I think we feel that that's a positive sign," Kelliher said.
Lawmakers have about two weeks until they reach the constitutional deadline for adjournment.