ST. PAUL (AP) -- Lawmakers returned to the Capitol Tuesday for the beginning of the end of this year's legislative work.
Most had left for the holiday weekend by the time House and Senate leaders accepted an overarching budget deal offered by Gov. Jesse Ventura on Friday. The package would mean about $900 million in tax relief and $912 million in new spending on such things as education, transportation and nursing homes.
Now, lawmakers must fill in the details on each major spending bill over the next week or so.
Five House-Senate committees on major spending bills met Tuesday, trying to decide exactly how much money should be spent on specific programs.
Among the bits of progress was an agreement by the House-Senate jobs committee to create a new state agency for work force development and replace the two agencies that currently administer those programs.
The reorganization, proposed by Ventura, is designed to shift the focus of the state's efforts from overseeing some 80 separate training programs to more broadly developing the state's economy.
Other decisions weren't so easy.
A joint transportation panel discussed whether to increase the fine for not wearing a seat belt from $25 to $75 and make it a primary offense for those under 18.
Rep. Tom Workman, R-Chanhassen, said allowing police to pull people over just for not wearing a seat belt would be "an infringement on their personal choice and freedom."
"At some point, personal freedom and choice begins to spill over into everyone else's pocketbook," Sen. Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, replied.
The committee delayed a final decision on the issue.
The overall accord reached Friday by Ventura and legislative leaders also appeared to be running into a few snags as lawmakers -- especially DFL senators -- got a closer look at the details Tuesday.
Senate President Don Samuelson and Sen. Keith Langseth held a news conference to criticize the deal they say would benefit high-priced homes and big businesses too much.
"I don't think this plan is at all fair," said Samuelson, DFL-Brainerd. "I think it's grossly unfair."
He said he would vote against the bill unless there were major changes to it.
Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, acknowledged the lack of enthusiasm for the plan in his caucus, but committed to trying to get the session wrapped up as soon as possible.
Moe and House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, directed their conference committees to finish crafting their bills by Friday.
Once lawmakers complete their work, Ventura said he'll call a one-day special session for them to pass all of the bills.
He said Tuesday on Minnesota Public Radio that the special session likely would be early next week, but quickly added "don't quote me." The governor is the only one who can call a special session.
Ideally, Ventura would have all bills signed by June 11, when local governments and state agencies need to know how much funding they'll have for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Moe and Sviggum met with Finance Commissioner Pam Wheelock to clarify some details from last week's agreement such as whether the proposed property tax rate classifications were set or maximums and a few details about education funding.
"You always hope you're going to reach agreement and that karma will come together with lightning speed," Wheelock said. "These are big issues and we purposely left a lot to be worked out by the conferees."
The regular session adjourned last week with little work done on the state's two-year, $27 billion budget, which needs to be in place by July 1 to avoid a shutdown of state programs and agencies from nursing homes to the highway patrol.
"We're not out of the woods," Ventura said. "Conference committees still have to reach their agreements and they have to send me bills that I'm not going to veto."
Health and human services is one bill that Ventura already has promised to veto if lawmakers insist on including a 24-hour waiting period on abortions in the larger spending package.
The governor can only line-item veto spending items, meaning he would have to either accept the whole package with the provision he doesn't like or veto the entire bill, which funds such things as welfare and nursing homes.
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