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Legislature approves budget, shutdown nears completion

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: July 20, 2011 - 6:34 AM

The end of the 20-day Minnesota state government shutdown was inches away Wednesday morning when lawmakers cast their final votes on the state’s budget.

The special session concluded at 3:45 a.m. Wednesday after a marathon of votes on nine budget bills and a $500 million bonding bill. There was little fanfare when the deal was done and lawmakers had erased a projected $5 billion deficit largely through one-time borrowing.

The dormant gears of Minnesota’s government will not start moving until Gov. Dayton signs the bills on Wednesday morning.

Republican leaders said after the final votes that they were satisfied with the final product.

“We were dealt a situation,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers. “I think we dealt with it the best that we could.”

Asked whether her members would run on or against this budget in the future, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said they would stand behind it.

“We’re going run on this budget,” Koch said. “We’re going to talk about closing a $5 billion forecast deficit without raising taxes. That’s a big thing. And we’re going to talk about the major reforms in these bills.”

Both leaders said they learned during negotiations that Gov. Dayton is open to reforms. “He is an agent for reform and change,” Zellers said.

One of the last bills to be approved was K-12 education, the largest slice of the state’s budget. The House signed off on the $13.6 billion bill just over an hour after it was made public.

The bill includes a provision to delay an additional $700 million in school payments, a key part the final budget deal struck by Dayton and Republican leaders. Democrats wasted no time assailing the tactic, which forces schools to borrow additional funds.

“More borrowing, more debt,” said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis “This money is not going to the classroom. It’s going to some bond house on Wall Street.”

Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said the shifting is “beneath us as a people.”

Republicans touted many reforms they were able to keep in the final bill. Those include teacher evaluations, literacy reward funding and the elimination of integration aid.

“This is not doom and gloom,” said Rep. Sondra Erickson. “This is a great day for the children of Minnesota, for the parents of Minnesota, and for our teachers and our principals, because we’re moving forward.”
 

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