With budget unfinished, Legislature heads to special session

Protestors at the state capitol Wednesday

Their agreement also calls for almost $1 billion of public construction projects, with a healthy share earmarked for transportation repairs. Michelle Fischbach, higher education finance and policy chair, said.

The two sides had agreed in principle late Monday to hold the special session with a self-imposed deadline of 7 a.m. Wednesday.

If they miss that deadline, they can come back for a special session.

Lawmakers may be working through the night. If agreements remain elusive in the special session, lawmakers risk a government shutdown.

Rank and file lawmakers sat around the Capitol passing time as their party leaders hustled in and out of closed-door meetings, keeping mum about the state of the state's two-year, $46 billion budget.

There were other complications with the one-page special session agreement hurriedly drafted Monday among the state's top leaders. It's a response to paid leave ordinances and possible minimum wage increases in Minneapolis, St. Paul and other cities, but Dayton has promised to veto the bill.

The agreement only stated that legislators could pass a bill "relating to labor standards", and Republicans told Dayton they wouldn't tie the measure to a larger budget bill.

Fischbach, who leads the higher education committee and co-authored the bill, cited the bill's spending on state grants for students with financial need, funds for homeless students, and the University's cancer research. The protesters are planning to stay all night or as long as it takes to get the governor to veto the bill.

"We are in round two of the shove-it-down-your-throat" phase of the session, House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said during the squabble over the bag ban. Republican leaders ditched his proposal, he said, in exchange for Dayton's acceptance of a more clearly delineated restriction on driver's licenses for illegal immigrants.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt said lawmakers needed to finalize details, but he was confident they would do so ahead of Tuesday afternoon floor sessions in each chamber. "In the end, I would love to have a handshake and say, 'We did it'".

Earlier in the day, lawmakers passed a $374 million jobs/commerce/energy budget bill.

The agreement came only minutes before the clock struck midnight, and was capped with an actual handshake between Republicans and Democrats who had spent hours locked in private rooms trying to find a middle ground.

On Wednesday, the House approved bills for taxes, education and transportation, with senators doing the same with taxes.

They are scheduled to vote on the five remaining bills needed to enact a $46 billion budget for the next two years, plus a almost $1 billion bonding bill for public works projects and a labor-standards measure. Farmers will get a tax credit to offset the cost of school tax levies. "The governor didn't want it. ..."

The $46-billion budget deal is still in limbo, which would include $650 million in tax cuts, $300 million for roadwork and almost $1 billion in public construction projects. After saying they would send a bill blocking cities from implementing their own minimum wage hikes or sick leave policies - which Dayton promised to veto - the GOP unveiled legislation Wednesday that was also loaded with measures meant to tempt the Democratic governor.

The "legacy" sales tax increase voters approved in 2008 will amount to almost $530 million, with $211 million going to clean water, $105 million to outdoor heritage and $90 million to parks and trails. But it increased reporting requirements for the agency, on everything from the costly Metro Mobility program to long-term plans for light rail transit in the region.

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