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Philosophy and BS: Still no deal at Capitol

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Gov. Tim Walz speaks to reporters on Tuesday, May 7 about negotiations over the state budget. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Budget negotiations involving Gov. Tim Walz, House Speaker Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka resumed briefly Tuesday afternoon with hopes that the agreement they failed to reach a day earlier could yet be found.

But the result was the same, big differences remain, and no deal is in sight.

Walz told reporters that he continues to wait for a “meaningful” counter-offer from Senate Republicans. Walz and House Democrats offered to reduce their spending proposals, but Senate Republicans have not moved in their direction.

“To have a counter offer be $0 and no changes is not a serious counter-offer,” Walz said.

Still, Walz insisted that the negotiation sessions to this point have not been a waste of time.

“We’re certainly having a lot of long and deep philosophical discussions about our position,” he said.

Senate Republicans believe Democrats are still trying to spend too much. GOP lawmakers also remain firmly opposed to any tax increases, and they are waiting for Democrats to back off on that part of their plan.

Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said he wants the other side, not his, to make the next offer.

“We want them to make movement on the large tax increases across many different areas,” Gazelka said.

Republicans also want to hold down spending increases, particularly in the health and human services budget.

The governor and legislative leaders missed their self-imposed Monday deadline for agreement on broad budget targets. They also jettisoned a May 13 deadline for conference committees to wrap up bills. Originally, the plan was aimed at making for a smoother finish to the session on May 20.

Speaker Hortman said she doesn’t believe there is anything to talk about until the Senate makes a counter offer. The governor and leaders are scheduled to attend the fishing opener together this weekend. There are no negotiating sessions scheduled until Sunday night.

Earlier in the day, Hortman reacted harshly to Gazelka’s characterization of the talks. He said in a statement that Walz and House Democrats had not relented at all on any of their tax increase proposals.

Hortman said it wasn’t true.

“I’m sorry, bullshit,” Hortman said. “The governor moved $200 million. We proposed to move $664 million. They are not that bad at math.”