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Budget negotiators aim for partial solution

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on Dec. 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
December 7, 2011 2:49 pm

Top Republican and Democratic budget writers in the House say they are now trying to reach a deal on some of the less controversial proposed budget cuts, with hopes of eliminating just a fraction of the state’s $2 billion budget shortfall in the Legislature’s emergency session.

An “early-action” plan in the works might carve out $400 million or $500 million that both parties can agree on, said the House GOP’s lead budget negotiator, Rep. Gary Alexander. He hopes they can reach a deal by next week that can be presented to the public and the Senate.

He declined to detail what might be included, but said it wouldn’t be some of the more explosive proposals like shortening the school year or reducing aid to less property-rich school districts.

The trouble is, nearly everything under consideration is controversial.

Budget chairman Ross Hunter, a Democrat, acknowledged a partial solution is the strategy but said there are factors that complicate the process. Some Democrats don’t want to agree to any cuts without some kind of increase in tax revenue, he said.

Alexander said the two sides moved to the partial approach Tuesday and are sitting down to negotiations this afternoon. The process is in its “infant stages,” but he said he’s glad they are now talking about how to chip away at a problem that he says can’t be fixed entirely in the 30-day emergency session.

Lawmakers are 10 days into the session but will likely want to leave well before Christmas — perhaps as early as next week.

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