ST. PAUL, Minn. -- May is beautiful time of year on the State Capitol grounds, as trees bud, flowers sprout and the lawn turns from brown to green.
But it's also the most stressful of times, because it's the final month on the session calendar. It's not even an entire month, in actuality.
May 20th is the final day lawmakers can take action on any bill, and that day is fast approaching with no overall budget deal yet between the leaders of the House and Senate.
House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk have been negotiating in private with Governor Mark Dayton, to come up with spending targets. From those targets revised spending bills will follow, and tax hikes passed earlier in the session will be reshaped.
All three are Democrats, so going into overtime is politically unaccepted -- especially considering they sharply criticized the Republican-led legislature for the 2010 budget stalemate that resulted in a government shutdown.
"We're not in session Saturday or Sunday, so that leaves only eight working session days left before we have to be out of here to pass the entire state budget," Rep. Kurt Daudt, the Republican House Minority Leader told KARE.
"Our questions is why are we cramming so much into such a short period of time we've already been here for over four months?"
There is a sculpture of a giant yellow megaphone in a park a couple blocks from the Capitol pointing in the direction of the seat of government.
Would it help, one might ask, if someone yelled into that megaphone to remind legislative leaders that the clock is ticking?
"You know, if you want to shout into a megaphone to urge us on that's fine," House Majority Leader Erin Murphy told KARE.
The St. Paul Democrat noted that the end of session, especially in odd-numbered budget years, is always marked by intense, private negotiations between the House and Senate working under a tight deadline.
"There's always pressure. There's some disagreement," Rep. Murphy said.
"People hear about that disagreement, and it looks like we're going to go off the tracks. But we're not. We're on track."
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