The top House Republican on health and human services issues said late Thursday afternoon that there were encouraging signs regarding state budget talks, but that time was running out.
“I was actually hopeful two days ago that if we could have gotten enough work done we’d be done by today,” said Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, which oversees the largest part of the state’s budget.
Like other Republicans who began talking in more detail Thursday, just hours before a possible state government shutdown, Abeler tried to apply pressure on Gov. Mark Dayton to avoid a Friday shutdown and agree to a so-called “lights on” bill that would temporarily keep state services up and running.
“What has to happen is that the leadership and the governor have to be confident that we’re close enough – a ‘lights on’ bill will take 10 minutes to do,” he said. “That’s just, like, nothing to do. You can do that in two pages.”
Abeler said DFL and Republican negotiators were close to reaching agreement on many parts of the state’s health and human services budget. “There’s a lot of parallel direction,” he said. “The direction that they’re going in is parallel to ours.
“I’m a terminal optimist,” Abeler said of the chances there could be an agreement by midnight on the state’s overall budget. “If I get discouraged, stuff is really bad.
“Eight hours in this world is a long time,” he added.
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