Attitude is everything in final days, lawmakers sayIt's crunch time at the Capitol.
By: Mike Longaecker, The Republican Eagle
It's crunch time at the Capitol.
Legislators have until midnight Monday to see if they can bridge a $3 billion budget gap with Gov. Tim Pawlenty. He upped the ante Thursday, announcing that if a resolution with top Democratic lawmakers couldn't be reached, he will carve the $3 billion out with executive powers.
So is a budget agreement still a possibility? It is, local lawmakers say - but it will take a change in attitudes.
Just whose attitude needs changing seemed to break along party lines.
"It depends on the attitude Democrats bring forward," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Wabasha. "There's probably more motivation among DFL leadership to bring about compromise."
Sen. Steve Murphy said it's up to Pawlenty, a Republican.
"I really don't believe his go-it-alone attitude is what the people of Minnesota want," the Red Wing Democrat said.
Rep. Tim Kelly, a freshman lawmaker, said Pawlenty's veto announcement crystallized the issue for legislators. He predicted compromise on the horizon.
"There is a very, very clear direction now," the Red Wing Republican said Friday of activity in the House.
Emotions were running high at the Capitol after Pawlenty's announcement, Murphy said.
Pawlenty said he will pass the Legislature's funding bills and use line-item veto power or unallotment -- a process where the governor deducts funding from state departments -- to balance the budget if no agreement is reached.
But it doesn't have to come to that, Murphy said.
"It is possible to crack this loggerhead that we're at," he said.
That will mean compromise. Murphy said he and other lawmakers have been working back channels in hopes of striking some agreements.
"It's better that the governor has a partner in this than going it alone," Murphy said.
He said that could mean meeting the governor halfway on hot-button revenue issues like leveraging the state's tobacco settlement money for bonding dollars.
Like it or not, some DFLers will have to reach similar conclusions if an agreement is to be reached, Murphy said.
"His ideas have to be part of the mix," he said of Pawlenty.
Not everyone at the Capitol was as critical of the governor's announcement. Drazkowski said the move represented "decisive, responsible leadership."
"Somebody's got to be the adult in the room and make some decisions," he said.
At Thursday's announcement, Pawlenty said lawmakers will not be called back into special session after they adjourn Monday.
Only the governor has the authority to call a special session of the Legislature.