ST. PAUL -- Legislative leaders today passed all major budget bills of the session and recessed with enough time to spare to return next week for possible veto overrides.
Just before 7 a.m., the Senate passed a bonding proposal for regional and state construction projects. The Legislature had to beat the deadline -- the statutory end of the legislative day -- to preserve time to meet again if necessary to override vetoes.
The House had already approved the bill. In the minutes before that, legislators approved bills dealing with state agency spending, K-12 education and taxes.
Both chambers had earlier passed a $596 million transportation funding package, sending the bill to Gov. Jesse Ventura's desk.
House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, earlier said he didn't think lawmakers would finish business in time.
''Every session has its different flavor,'' Sviggum said of the sprint finish. ''I think we have a wonderful product on its way to the governor.''
Rep. David Bishop, R-Rochester, said that while such finishes can be trying, they often lead to solid agreements.
''There's tremendous pressure on this chamber and on that one,'' he said. ''It's like the pressure on a jury when you lock them in a room and tell them, 'You have to get this done.'''
A standing ovation followed completion of work in the Senate, but not all senators were happy to partake in the fanfare.
''It's like a dysfunctional family and then we all sit at 7 o'clock in the morning and give ourselves a hand because we run a $610 million bonding bill through and talk about it for just a few minutes,'' complained Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna.
Ventura said today he would reserve final judgment on the budget bills that passed, but he seemed fairly happy with what he had heard so far. ''I consider Minnesota a winner,'' he said.
About 6:30 a.m., negotiators broke a months-long deadlock over the Profile of Learning, which had threatened to keep budget bills from passing and the session from coming to a close. Lawmakers won't actually vote on the compromise until next week.
All of the major money issues were tied with the changes to the graduation standards in a night of intense talks between the House and Senate.
Several lawmakers were unhappy with the grueling work day.
''The process this time of the year is ugly; it should be reformed,'' said House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan. ''This isn't any way to run a business, much less a government.''
Said Rep. Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul: ''I think a train wreck would have been preferable. The process isn't working, and tempers are frayed. It's hard to see that good policy is made at 3 o'clock in the morning.''
Lobbyists curled up on benches outside the House and Senate chambers, waiting for lawmakers to reconvene. After a several-hour break, they met again around 2:45 a.m., but the House recessed a short time later to work out proposed changes to the Profile of Learning.
Sviggum wanted a deal on a graduation-standards fix before moving ahead with other megabills, including those dealing with bonding, education funding and state agency spending.
On Tuesday, House members warmed up for the marathon session by beating back a last-ditch attempt for a unicameral Legislature and taking up a slew of lower-profile bills.
By Tuesday evening, the House had passed a multimillion-dollar tax cut bill with a 124-6 vote. The measure includes a $160 million income tax cut, vehicle registration fee reductions of more than $150 million and a $640 million sales tax rebate.
Under the bill, tax rates would decline in all three income brackets -- by 0.15 percentage point in the top and bottom brackets and by 0.20 percentage point in the middle bracket. The average tax reduction would be about 2.8 percent.
The Senate, which began debate on the bill around 3:15 a.m., had opposed the across-the-board income tax cuts as unfair to middle and lower income Minnesotans, favoring a personal exemption credit instead.
But the income tax cuts were part of a three-way agreement among the House, Senate and Gov. Jesse Ventura.
The bonding panel, which deals with regional and statewide construction projects, had struggled for days to fit a host of projects into a $539 million bill. In the end, lawmakers and Ventura's advisers decided to borrow and spend more.
The sides tentatively agreed to an approximately $600 million plan, which includes $44 million in last-minute funding for transit projects Ventura wanted. Sviggum said the inflated price tag would likely cost him some Republican votes, particularly among those who were hoping to keep new borrowing to a minimum.
Lawmakers were mindful of what happened after they went home last year, when they said they were blindsided by Ventura's veto of $160 million in projects and it was too late to override the vetoes.
Pawlenty also said lawmakers are less trustful of Ventura after he vetoed a bill that would have required a 24-hour waiting period and more detailed information for most abortions. House leaders were told by administration officials that the governor likely would sign the bill.
''The rapport and level of good will is not at a high-water mark,'' Pawlenty said.
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