Last hours of the session - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Crystal Oko

Last hours of the session

Posted:
ST. PAUL, MN (KTTC-DT) -- In just two hours this year's legislative session will be officially closed.

And it was one to remember as lawmakers continues to work to the very end to fix the state's nearly $5 billion budget deficit.

The major sticking point between Governor Pawlenty and the Democratic-controlled legislature was a $1 billion tax plan.

The governor is sticking by his promise to not sign a bill that would raise taxes while Democrats said the state needs a new way of collecting more revenue.

Top Democrats and Governor Tim Pawlenty met in a closed-door meeting in the last hours of the session.

"We met about 15 after 12 for about an hour. We had good conversation, all cordial. I think everybody's just searching for some kind of ground here," said Sen. Dave Senjem.

What remains is $2.7 billion and two sides divided on how to close that gap.

"What we're doing is looking at backing down a little bit on our revenue and also putting together some of the shifts that we need in order to make sure that the budget is balanced," said Rep. Andy Welti.

The main sticking point? Taxes. The governor has promised to not sign anything with a tax increase.

"We're really down to the same place we were toward the beginning of the session. Will there be a billion dollar tax increase or won't there be? The governor says there won't be a billion dollar tax increase. We're waiting to see if the Democratic leadership comes back with another alternative," said Rep. Randy Demmer.

If nothing is agreed upon by the midnight deadline then the governor will use his executive power to make the final cuts needed to balance the budget.

"I think that people will, not agree with the level of cuts that will have to be made under the unallotment so I'm really hoping that the governor comes to the table and that he will work with us to compromise," said Welti.

Regardless of what happens in the final hours of the session, local legislators say this session was tough. When they walked in, January, they faced a $5 billion deficit.

"No other group of legislators have ever faced such a profound deficit situation. We've worked hard, we've tried to make this thing work," said Senjem.

"We're going to see some pretty dramatic changes in government in order to become more efficient and to save the taxpayers money," said Welti.

The session will end at midnight officially.

The governor says he won't call a special session.

Instead, he will be ready to use emergency, executive powers to cut spending on his own.

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