House passes measure to keep government lights on

The Minnesota House has passed legislation that would keep state government running if a agreement isn’t reached on a new two-year budget.

There are five days left in the legislative session, and the current budget expires July 1. Under the “Lights On” bill passed today on a vote of 88 to 46, funding for state agencies would continue at current base levels.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich, DFL-Chisholm, said the bill is a safety measure that he hopes is never used.

“Members, I bring this before you as an option of very last resort, if necessary,” Sertich said. “But I think it’s good to have all our bases covered as we’re heading into our last week of session. We have no guarantee that there will be an agreement. And if we get to Monday, and the session adjourns, we have no guarantee that the governor will call us back before July 1 when our state budget needs to be put together.”

Republicans argued that Democrats are throwing in the towel on budget negotiations by passing the bill. Rep. Paul Kohls, R-Victoria, said there’s no urgency for a backup.

“Each and every year we get to this point, and people start saying oh we can’t get it done, we can’t get it done,” Kohls said. “Hogwash. We absolutely can get it done.”

Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Democrats remain at odds over proposed tax increases and spending cuts, as they try to erase a $4.6 billion budget deficit.

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