House and Senate budget negotiators, meeting in private for days now trying to hash out the two-year state budget, finally produced agreement Thursday by setting a spending level of $2.1 billion for the next two years for state courts and public safety operations.
Sen. Ron Latz, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Finance Committee, revealed the agreement Thursday morning on the Senate floor. Latz said afterward that the spending agreement was about $6 million below what Senate Democrats initially approved for courts and public safety, but about $30 million above the plan from House Republicans.
"We'll have to make some cuts off the Senate number, and I'm prepared to do that," said Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. He wasn't willing to say what programs would suffer.
In addition to the state courst system, this budget category covers the Department of Corrections and its network of state prisons, as well as the Department of Public Safety.
Both the House and Senate public safety and courts spending bills include a number of policy provisions. Both chambers approved a provision that would allow the sale of gun suppressors, or silencers, in Minnesota.
The Senate bill also includes a policy provision that would restore voting rights for felons, and Latz said the Senate DFL wants that measure included in the final public safety-courts spending bill, or else will insist the bill include no policy provisions at all.
The deal on public safety and courts spending shows a glimmer of progress in overall budget talks, as Gov. Mark Dayton along with Senate DFL and House GOP leaders negotiate a budget deal in hopes of finishing session on time by next Monday night.