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20 May 2017, 12:44 | Amanda Barker
Health care a sticking point as budget talks turn specific
Legislative leaders are diving into the specifics of their budget disagreements. Late in the day, Dayton aired a new offer he characterized as "Meet Half Way", in which most of the state's $1.65 billion projected surplus would be divided in half: $682 million for the GOP priorities of tax cuts and transportation, and $682 million for additional spending on state programs and services.
This has taken two years of fighting about state's rights, privacy, and driver's licenses for undocumented workers to reach this deal, but the House and Senate have now passed the compromise bill and Gov. Dayton is expected to sign it. Lawmakers are preparing a new round of spending bills to send to the governor if talks do not go well.
A handful of lawmakers remained holdouts, bothered by the specter of federal intrusion: "It is subjecting our state to the federal government", said Sen. The new law would require the Minnesota Department of Public Safety to begin issuing licenses by October 1, 2018.
State Rep. Jim Knoblach, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin and Deputy Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller shown at a press conference earlier this week. "If you get into the policy matters, we are talking about hours and hours and hours of discussion and debate, ' Dayton said this week".
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The two sides traded budget offers throughout the week, starting to narrow a sizable gap between their proposals while expressing hope they could wrap up a deal in time. "If we're going to consider a halfway budget we've got to consider all the spending", Knoblach said.
At stake is funding for almost all state government programs.
After three days of meetings, the governor and the legislators announced "baby steps" on some of the bills, but by Wednesday night the steps had slowed to a crawl, then stopped, then started backtracking. If they don't get it done by midnight Sunday, there will have to be a special session. "We've entered the cone of silence", he said.
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