No Minnesota budget deal, but lawmakers strike new tone

Twenty-four hours after state budget negotiations blew up in finger pointing, Minnesota lawmakers and Gov. Tim Walz struck a more civil tone and suggested they were making progress Tuesday evening.

Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and others met for five hours behind closed doors in the state Capitol. No one left, though aides came back and forth carrying boxes of budgetary paperwork. All sides declined to reveal their cards when the meeting finally split up around 6:15 p.m. Tuesday for a 90-minute dinner break.

“The fact that we were there that long should say something,” Gazelka told reporters. Walz later said that the sides planned to work into the night.

The scene was much different than Monday, when the parties rushed to share their latest offers with reporters and to criticize the other side. When that happens, it’s a sure sign that little progress has been made. The key sticking points: Democrats’ plan to increase the gas tax by 20 cents per gallon and extend the state’s tax on medical providers, which Republicans have said are nonstarters.

Lawmakers and Walz are rushing to finish their spending deal by Wednesday, which top lawmakers agree is when nonpartisan bill drafters need to start finalizing thousands of pages within the nearly $50 billion budget. Lawmakers face a Monday deadline to pass the budget bills if they expect to avoid a special session.