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Special session looms

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DFL Gov. Tim Walz and top legislative leaders resumed budget negotiations Friday, amid growing indications that they will need a special session to complete their work.

The talks to reach an elusive deal on spending and taxes broke down Thursday when Senate Republicans left the closed-door meeting to pass a resolution that would keep state government funded past July 1, if a new budget isn’t approved by then. Senate GOP leaders described it as an insurance policy.

DFL Majority Leader Ryan Winkler said the House has no plans at this time to take up such a measure. Winkler said work continues to reach an agreement. But he concedes they will need to go past the May 20 adjournment deadline to get the job done.

“I think in order to process bills in an orderly fashion and make sure they are not filled with mistakes, it’s going to take some extra time,” Winkler said. “But that doesn’t mean that we won’t have an agreement and it doesn’t mean we won’t have a lot of bills ready. But we do want to make sure we get it right.”

The governor must call a special session. But the Legislature decides when one is over. Typically, a firm agreement is in place before it happens. The special session could come immediately after the regular session ends, which is what happened in 2017. Or it could be weeks, like in 2015. They haven’t finished budget work on time since 2013.

But Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said late Friday afternoon that he still thinks there's "opportunity to get done on time."

"We're not quite there," he said after a brief meeting with the governor around 4 p.m. "We've been spending day after day after day working at how do we bring two sides together that are pretty far apart."

He said both sides have acted professionally and "honorable" in budget talks, but he wouldn't answer any questions about sticking points in negotiations or the timing of a potential deal.

"Negotiations right now are too sensitive to go into other details about where we're at, other than to say we're close," he added.

Senate DFL Minority Leader Tom Bakk said he talked with Walz Thursday evening about whether they can finish on time and concerns about constituencies feeling let down if the governor doesn't deliver on campaign promises.

"If he can't deliver, how do we message that to the public?" Bakk said. "I think he got some feeling that some people are going to feel let down, and we talked extensively that it's the Senate Republicans that are standing in the way, not the House, not the administration, not the Senate Democrats."