Negotiations off to a rocky start at MN Capitol

House and Senate negotiations on some key budget bills got off to a bumpy start Friday at the Minnesota Capitol.

The Republican Senate chair of the jobs and energy conference committee informed his DFL counterpart by letter a day earlier that his side would not be showing up for the afternoon meeting.

Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, criticized Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, for scheduling the hearing and witnesses before Senate conference committee members were even named. He also said the senators who were put on the committee had previous commitments in their districts and could not make it to a Friday meeting.

“Informing me that you are scheduling a conference committee meeting before the Senate conferees were assigned disrespects our chamber, disrespects our members and is the wrong way to begin effective negotiations,” Pratt wrote.

Ultimately, Pratt showed up at the hearing without other senators to share his objections directly with Mahoney.

Conference committees on transportation and health and human services also had Friday meetings scheduled.

Members of the tax bill conference committee met as scheduled, but not without complaints.

Senate Tax Chair Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said the meeting was a “political stunt” because DFL leaders rescheduled it from its original Monday start.

“We wanted the staff to have some time so they could get their rest and catch up and get their stuff together, and we had plenty of time to meet on Monday,” Chamberlain said. “So, that was the original date, the original agreement, and it was broken unilaterally and arbitrarily.”

House Tax Chair Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said the panel has an aggressive timeline for coming up with a tax bill that “benefits all folks around this entire state,” including several federal conformity provisions.

“Conference committees are supposed to wind up by May 13, so we can get to a May 20 smooth ending,” Marquart said. “That certainly will be the goal of this tax conference committee.”

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