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Political Notebook: All about the budget

April 4, 2017 GMT

Budget bills will continue to dominate at the Minnesota Capitol this week.

Lawmakers are putting long hours in a push to pass all budget bills by Friday. Legislators are running about a month ahead of schedule when it comes to passing budget bills. The big question is whether or not that head start will lead to a smoother end to session.

First, the Republican-led House and Senate need to reach agreement on each budget bill via a conference committee. Then those final bills must win support from both chambers before heading to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk. Will legislators work in conference committee to put together bills that Dayton will be willing to sign? Or will they go ahead and send him bills he will veto knowing they still have time to put together other proposals?

There are some major disagreements between the GOP-led Legislature and Dayton when it comes to the budget. Lawmakers and the governor are $1 billion apart when it comes to spending, with the GOP-led Legislature putting forward $45 billion budget proposals and Dayton advocating a $46 billion plan.

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Republicans want a hefty portion of the state’s budget surplus to go toward tax cuts. Dayton’s proposal uses most of those dollars for additional spending.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka recently told reporters that lawmakers have been working with the governor’s office to get bills signed and it is a trend he wants to continue.

“We’ll get better bills if we work that way. I see no reason why that trend will not continue,” Gazelka said. “If we send a bill and he vetoes it, then you know that things are breaking down.”

Dayton told reporters that it remains to be seen how the budget process will turn out. He said several budget bills include policy language he opposes. In addition, he and Republicans have profound philosophical disagreements that have to be addressed.

“The question is will people be willing to meet in the middle,” Dayton said.

Walz calls on Nunes to recuse himself

First District Rep. Tim Walz issued a statement last week calling on House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes to recuse himself from an investigation in Russian interference with last year’s presidential election. He joins several other Democrats calling for Nunes to step aside after reports that Nunes met on White House grounds with a source who showed him secret intelligence reports.

At the very least, it appears Chairman Nunes’ ability to independently investigate Russia’s attack on our democracy is compromised. As the credibility of any congressional investigation relies on a commitment to bipartisanship and the independence of those conducting it, I call on Chairman Nunes to immediately recuse himself from the Committee’s Russia investigation,” Walz said in a statement.

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The Mankato Democrat also renewed his calls for an independent commission to investigate Russia’s actions during the election. Walz announced last week he is running for Minnesota governor. He is not the other southern Minnesota to jump in the race. Over the weekend, longtime Rochester DFL Rep. Tina Liebling announced she would also be running for governor.

Talking about transportation

An upcoming forum will focus on transportation bills advancing at the Capitol.

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues event will feature Minnesota Department of Transportation Chief of Staff Eric Davis. Local lawmakers are also expected to attend and field questions from the audience. The event runs from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Friday, April 14.