ST. PAUL -- The House had a brief skirmish over a sales tax rebate. The Senate DFL came forward with a "Plan B." But in the end Thursday, lawmakers made little progress toward resolving the budget dispute.
If they can't come to terms by midnight June 30, the state will face its first government shutdown caused by a budget impasse.
Senate Democrats introduced a so-called "lights-on" bill proposing $21.3 billion in spending to keep government going if a deal can't be worked out.
Short of an agreement on a full-sized budget, Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe said, lights-on is the only other option.
"We will not participate in shutting down the government," said Moe, DFL-Erskine.
"The governor said he does not want a shutdown, I'll take him at his word," Moe said after a meeting with Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Ventura remains cool to the idea of passing a limited budget with no major tax bill. "I'm not considering it at this time," he said at an event before the Moe meeting.
House GOP leaders also were critical.
"We're not going to a lights-on scenario," said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon. "That's not doable in the House."
The "lights-on" bill contains money for the entire 2002-03 budget period, although less than the $27.3 billion plan at the center of discussion for five months.
Included is $9.2 billion for early childhood programs and kindergarten through 12th-grade schools. Colleges would get $2.8 billion. Programs dealing with health and human services would receive about $6.4 billion.
In addition, the bill provides for a sales-tax rebate of any leftover money from fiscal year 2001 once the books close June 30.
The bill contains no property tax measure, the area causing the most headaches in debate over a regular budget.
House Minority Leader Tom Pugh, DFL-South St. Paul, said members of his caucus could back a "lights-on" proposal as a fallback plan.
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