ST. PAUL (AP) -- House and Senate leaders reached a deal early Thursday morning on a bill that funds early childhood and K-12 education, leaving just three budget bills to reconcile.
Senate Majority Leader John Hottinger said negotiators alleviated some concerns about funding for Minneapolis and St. Paul.
"Nevertheless, it's a cut in education, which we see as unnecessary and inappropriate," he said.
That proposal was likely to get to the floor late in the day.
It's another step in the Legislature's plod toward its summer vacation -- a break some lawmakers believe will happen later rather than sooner.
On Wednesday, the second day in the special session, the House caught up to the Senate in passing the fourth of eight budget bills, approving a fee-heavy $1.4 billion criminal justice and courts system budget, 70-62.
That put them at the halfway point for budget work, not counting a variety of other major issues that lawmakers hope to resolve. But the remaining budget bills, which cover more than two-thirds of the state budget, are giving negotiators headaches.
Senate Democrats huddled Wednesday night to discuss strategy, and at least a few hinted that they're prepared to stay as long as it takes to reach acceptable agreements within the global budget accord.
"There should be no time limit on fairness," said Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, who is one of two main legislators developing the tax bill. That bill will include cuts to state funding for local governments, and Pogemiller is insisting that they be spread more evenly across the state.
"There's no one asking to undo the deal. All we want now is fairness in the deal," Pogemiller said.
His comments raise the prospect of a drawn-out fight. He noted that lawmakers passed the bill that funds core government operations so a shutdown that would otherwise occur July 1 probably wouldn't happen.
House Majority Leader Erik Paulsen, R-Eden Prairie, didn't dispute that reasoning. But he said he wants legislators to work through the weekend if necessary to finish the session.
The judiciary finance bill both bodies have now approved includes higher surcharges on speeding tickets, court fees and co-payments for indigent offenders who use public defenders.
It will cost twice as much, for example, to appeal a court decision -- $500 -- and nearly double to file for divorce -- $260 from $135.
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