No movement on the budget divide as session winds down

Rally at Capitol
Demonstrators shout and wave signs in the State Capitol rotunda during a Peoples Rally for a Fair Minnesota Saturday, May 21, 2011 in St. Paul, Minn. Lawmakers worked Saturday with less than three days left in the legislative session, as the Capitol filled with demonstrators on gay marriage and budget cuts.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

Health care advocates and activists involved in the same-sex marriage debate filled the hallways of the Capitol on Saturday as lawmakers debated various policy bills, including whether to require voters to show photo ID at the polls.

But there was little movement on the budget with less than three days remaining until the Legislature's deadline for adjournment. Some lawmakers even suggested making contingency plans should a stalemate over the budget cause a government shutdown at the end of June.

"The governor is making no efforts to do anything but shut the government down. He's not negotiating," Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, who introduced a bill that would keep government operating if no budget deal is reached by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton met Saturday morning and again in the afternoon with leaders of the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

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After both meetings, Republicans emerged saying little progress was made.

Republican leaders have said they've already compromised by agreeing to keep spending at the same level as the last biennium rather than reducing spending as citizens and businesses have done during the economic downturn. They have sent their budget bills to Dayton in the last few days.

"We've already passed a balanced budget," House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said. "We think we should live within our means."

Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said they want Dayton to either sign or veto the bills so the Legislature has time to work on them. But Dayton has said he wants to agree on an overall budget solution with the Legislature rather than signing individual pieces of it.

After the afternoon meeting, Dayton said he was waiting for GOP leaders to present something new. Dayton offered concessions earlier this week on his proposal to raise taxes.

"I'm still waiting for them to suggest something on the revenue side, and they keep saying they're committed to the $34 billion budget and they're not going to budge from that," Dayton said. "We remain $1.8 billion apart."


The House passed a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage late Saturday night, after several hours of debate.

Gov. Dayton called the measure "un-Minnesotan."

"I will do everything I can to defeat it," he said.

The Senate passed the amendment last week. The question will be placed on the November 2012 ballot, asking voters whether marriage should be defined as "between one man and one woman."

House leaders had wanted to debate the bill on Friday, but an appearance by controversial pastor Bradlee Dean on the House floor prevented it. Dean, founder of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International ministry has spoken out against gay people.

Supporters and opponents of the amendment lined up outside of the House chambers yelling either "vote no!" or "vote yes!" over the past two days.

The state already bans same-sex marriage in law, but supporters of the amendment say putting the language in the Constitution would prevent a judge from overturning the law. Opponents say adopting the amendment would enshrine discrimination in the state's founding document.


Also Saturday, the House approved a bill that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls. The measure now goes to Dayton, who will likely veto it.

During the debate, DFL members continued to question whether the public was given enough notice about a conference committee meeting on the bill. The sponsor, Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, said all public meeting requirements were met.

"They were given a heads up and information by both the House and the Senate staff," Kiffmeyer said.

After voting to take up the bill, DFL members listed several problems they see in the proposal, including concerns over whether certain groups of voters would be disenfranchised.

Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said she's concerned college students won't have the time or flexibility to follow up with documentation after casting a provisional ballot in an election.

"We all know teenagers, we all know young 20-somethings," she said. "As a practical matter, what this voter ID bill means, unfortunately, is that thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of college students would lose their opportunity to vote."

Republicans said the legislation is needed to improve integrity in the system.

(MPR reporter Tom Scheck contributed to this report.)