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Progress slow on budget solution

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, discusses a tax measure during a Saturday meeting of House and Senate tax negotiators. Scott Wente/Minn. State Capitol Bureau

ST. PAUL - Legislators on an education funding committee took the weekend off.

A spat among Minnesota lawmakers negotiating a health-care spending bill interrupted talks Saturday.

Lawmakers working on a deal to fund agriculture and veterans' programs were in a holding pattern, and other spending bills remained unresolved, a little more than a week before the Legislature must adjourn.

And reaction to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto Saturday of a $1 billion tax bill raised questions about whether lawmakers and the governor will come together on a state budget agreement.

Just hours after the Legislature late Friday passed a bill that linked a $1 billion tax increase to school and health-care spending, Pawlenty vetoed the measure as he left home around 3 a.m. for the state fishing opener.

The governor warned lawmakers he would veto it, calling it "hastily processed and ill considered."

"The DFL tax bill was like a bucket of leeches on the taxpayers of Minnesota," Pawlenty spokesman Alex Carey said.

The bill, an alternative to larger tax-raising proposals earlier passed by the House and Senate, would have raised the same amount of revenue Pawlenty proposes to collect through a state borrowing plan that Democrats say cannot pass the Legislature.

The tax plan would have created a new, higher income tax rate for the wealthiest Minnesotans. It also included an alcohol tax increase and a surtax on credit card companies charging customers more than 15 percent interest. The revenue would be divided among public schools, nursing homes and hospitals.

The House approved the tax measure 86-45, the Senate 44-20. Republican Pawlenty rejected it hours later.