Spring break is over for Minnesota lawmakers.
They returned to the Capitol Tuesday with a lot of budget work ahead of them in the remaining weeks of the 2017 session.
It won't be easy.
Gov. Mark Dayton welcomed them back with a warning against "end-of-session gamesmanship." In a letter to GOP leaders, Dayton restated his opposition to cuts to state services when there's a budget surplus of more than $1.5 billion. He also emphasized that House and Senate negotiators need to agree on the budget bills before he joins in.
"I've already set forth my position with my budget proposal and various policy proposals. So, then we'll have something to negotiate. But I'm not going to negotiate with them before they've negotiated between themselves," Dayton said during an interview on WCCO Radio.
But Republican leaders have their own ideas.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said he wants the governor and his commissioners fully engaged now in public negotiations.
"My hope is the governor agrees to engage in that," he said. "If he doesn't, it means that he wants smoky backroom deals with just a few people. I just don't think that serves Minnesotans well." Daudt criticized Dayton and his commissioners for detailing a long list of objections to the Republican budget bills, and not acknowledging things they like. He also took issue with the governor's continued push for a gas tax increase that doesn't have the votes to pass.
• Last weekend: Commissioners set stakes for upcoming budget battle
But during that radio interview, Dayton said he no longer sees a gas tax increase as viable. He said he will probably swallow the Republican plan to use the general fund to pay for much-needed road and bridge projects.
"It's the best I can do. I've tried for three years now and have gotten nowhere with, again, the ideologues."
The session can end without a transportation bill. But lawmakers must pass a two-year budget by the May 22 adjournment, if they want to avoid a special session or a repeat of the 2011 stalemate that led to a government shutdown.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said the initial budget bills were passed with plenty of time left for negotiation. But Gazelka said he too wants the governor involved now rather than later.
"If we have a roadblock, then we'll send a bill to him that he may veto," Gazelka said. "But that would not be our preference. Our preference would be that we actually continue to communicate and negotiate to a successful resolution."