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DFL pushes bill to keep state agencies funded

ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators moved Monday night to make sure state agencies can spend money even if lawmakers do not agree on a budget. Senators passed the measure 45-19, with Democrats favoring it and Republicans generally opposed. The House is expected to vote on it later this week.

Republicans said the bill looks like Democrat-Farmer-Laborites who control the Legislature gave up on finishing the state's next two-year budget by lawmakers' constitutional adjournment date of next Monday.

Democrats, however, said it would merely keep the state functioning if no budget deal passes.

Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said that legislative leaders should be working with the governor on the budget now, not looking ahead to missing their deadline.

Minnesota government sustained a partial shutdown in 2005 when lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty could not finish the state budget by July 1, the start of a new budget cycle.

Pogemiller's bill allows state funding to continue flowing to agencies at the same level as under the current budget or less if there is not enough tax revenue.

In the next week, lawmakers are supposed to solve a $4.6 billion deficit as they write a $33 billion, two-year budget. If they do not finish by Monday, Pawlenty would need to call a special session to finish the budget.

A new budget offer Monday by Republican Pawlenty met with Democratic legislative leaders' strong opposition.

House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, rejected it in a Twitter message as "not a responsible plan."

Pawlenty's three-part offer included:

- Cutting his plan in half to borrow nearly $1 billion for state operating funds.

- Accept a Senate-passed provision to do without the $250 million budget reserve he had wanted.

- Move toward a House plan to delay state payments to school districts, which would save the state money in the next budget.