Budget unfinished, Minnesota Legislature heads to special session

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota's legislative leaders planned to immediately return to the Capitol to finish a new budget in a special session after blowing past Monday's midnight deadline to finish their work.

The tentative agreement between Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and top Republicans who control the Legislature calls to finish the remaining pieces of the budget by Wednesday morning. The two sides agreed to put $660 million toward tax relief, $50 million to expand preschool offerings and $300 million to fix roads and bridges.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt said lawmakers would spend Tuesday morning finalizing the details but said he was confident their agreement with the governor would come together to finish the budget as quickly as possible. They have until 7 a.m. Wednesday to finalize the bulk of a two-year budget that will surpass $46 billion.

"We all had to give up something, which is always what happens," Senate Majority Leader Gazelka said.

The deal between the two sides came together in the final hours of the regular session that was destined for an inconclusive end. Tasked with passing a new budget with a $1.65 billion surplus in hand, the Legislature slogged over the final weekend of the legislative session to piece together a budget.

The Legislature sent Dayton bills that fund state colleges and universities, agricultural programs, courts and public safety agencies, environmental programs and more. But by Monday morning, it was clear they were running out of time as the governor and Republican leaders deadlocked over the largest slices of the state budget, including public school spending, tax breaks and the scope of cuts to public health services.

Dayton had deemed expanding a preschool program launched last year into more schools a must-have in the budget, funding Republicans resisted. And the GOP pushed the Democratic governor for more in tax relief and a transportation funding plan that doesn't raise gasoline taxes or license tab fees. Their agreement also calls for nearly $1 billion of public construction projects, with a healthy share for transportation repairs.

"It's not everything that I want," Dayton said of their agreement. "You give and take."

The House and Senate formally ended the 2017 legislative session shortly before midnight Monday, only to gavel in the special session as the clock struck 12:01 a.m. Lawmakers were expected to return late Tuesday morning to begin the final budget push.

Special sessions have become routine at the Minnesota Legislature. Lawmakers needed a one-day overtime session while setting its last budget in 2015 after Dayton vetoed several spending bills. In 2011, massive disagreements between Dayton and a GOP Legislature over how to solve a $6 billion shortfall triggered a 20-day government shutdown that ended only after a special session.

But whether the last-minute plan ultimately succeeds will rest on rank-and-file lawmakers. Though Republican lawmakers hoped for less in spending than the final plan entails, GOP Rep. Bob Dettmer of Forest Lake said the overriding factor in his approval would be getting the budget done as soon as possible.

"I'm glad we gaveled out and gaveled right back in. That's the right way to do it," he said. "We have to get our work done."