After many late night meetings and long closed-door sessions, state Republican lawmakers are putting the finishing touches on the budget bills they will bring into negotiations with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
The budget measures are the result of compromises between the Republican-controlled House and Senate. They deal with a $5 billion deficit without raising taxes, instead cutting spending for state programs. Dayton wants to raise income taxes on high-earners and largely spare programs.
Unlike previous versions of the separate House and Senate plans, the legislative measures avoid reliance on projected savings Dayton and his commissioners had dismissed as phony numbers. The administration had previously said the bills came up more than $1 billion short of closing the budget gap because of fantasy calculations. The measures are now grounded in the administration's fiscal reality.
In an unusual move, lawmakers have put finishing touches on the draft budget bills but not had the lawmakers who prepared them put their signatures to them. Without those signatures the measures, known as conference committee reports, cannot be sent to the full House and Senate for votes, the antecedent to presenting the bills to the governor.
Legislative leaders have said they are holding the bills back so that they can negotiate with Dayton and change the bills if need be get his signature. The governor has made clear he is no fan of the measures in their current form, which likely would spell veto of all the measures.
Still, lawmakers have posted some of the draft bills on the legislative website for examination.
You can view the k-12 budget bill, which would actually give schools a slight funding formula increase but includes policy language Dayton does not like and cuts some other areas of school spending, here.
The Legislature has yet to post the budget bills for state government finance, environmental programs and health and human services. Those should be available here soon.
The health and human services measure (posted here Saturday night) cuts about $1.8 billion from projected spending. Although that number is similar to lawmakers' previous plans, before both the House and Senate relied on waivers from the federal government for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of savings. Dayton has said the federal government would never agree to those waivers and indicated he would not support them.
The current plan does not rely on health care waivers and instead curtails the state's spending on health care for the poor and disabled.
With a planned Saturday meeting, lawmakers are expected to finish their draft jobs and economic development budget bill soon. (Update: lawmakers cancelled their Saturday meeting. The meeting has been rescheduled for Monday.) That would leave only the measure to fund public safety programs yet undrafted.
Lawmakers and the governor have just until May 23 to complete work on the state's two-year budget and avoid a special session. Failing that they would require a special session to get the job done by the end of June or else the state will slide into partial government shutdown.