ST. PAUL -- Senate and House leaders have much more to think about this holiday weekend than the usual festivities.
They will need to plan their next steps to try to break a budget stalemate.
House Minority Leader Tom Pugh, DFL-South St. Paul, compared the session to the sinking of the Titanic and said Republicans were busy trying to get the first-class passengers into a life boat.
''Unfortunately, we have to come back next week,'' said Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine.
That wasn't supposed to be the case. Moe and House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, had agreed before the session started Feb. 1 that they would try to wrap things up by this week at the latest.
Shortly thereafter, the two sides submitted their budget proposals.
The Senate is standing by the Department of Finance's estimate of $549 million available annually to cut taxes or increase spending on an ongoing basis, the same number used by Gov. Jesse Ventura. DFLers note that they have always relied on the department's figures in the past.
The House contends that estimate was too conservative because it didn't take into account several pots of money, including millions in tobacco settlement money. House leaders said about $850 million was available.
Over the last few weeks, Republicans have whittled that number down to their latest proposal of about $590 million annually. Not good enough -- the House is still using ''phony'' numbers, Moe said.
''I don't see where there's room to negotiate,'' he said.
The House's original proposal included one-time money from several sources. The latest version would add only $40 million or so per year in ongoing tobacco settlement money to the $549 million.
House leaders said they have compromised more than $250 million, while the Senate hasn't moved at all.
''It always seems we are negotiating against ourselves,'' Sviggum said.
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