A special Minnesota House panel that’s been meeting at the State Capitol has a daunting task — find ways of increasing chances that the legislature will finish the state budget on time without “extra innings” in a special session. Winona Democrat Gene Pelowski says they’re looking at use of budget forecasts, more bill deadlines and other measures — but beyond that he says, “I’m continually hopeful — even though I’ve been disappointed more often than not — that for once let’s not use partisanship as our standard. Let’s use the standard of what’s best for Minnesota in getting our work done.” Lawmakers from both parties generally push hard against the mid-May adjournment deadline, hoping to gain an advantage in end-of-session negotiations.
Pelowski contends one thing that’s encouraged deadlock is including controversial policy riders in budget bills — an attempt to get the other side to “swallow” something they don’t like. “We’ve had bills that have been loaded with policy lately, and it hasn’t helped us,” he says. “Either they’re rejected by the Senate or they’re rejected by the governor.” Pelowsi says the solution is to keep policy and finance bills separate through the whole session. But it may be difficult to convince lawmakers to give up what some consider a powerful negotiating tactic.