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Pawlenty prepares for budget woes

ST. PAUL - In a sign that state budget negotiations are not going well, Gov. Tim Pawlenty is looking at ways to fix a budget deficit if he and legislative leaders cannot reach an agreement by the Legislature's May 19 adjournment date.

On Thursday, for the first time in public, the Republican governor said he is considering options in case negotiations fail. H

e told reporters that he is looking at how he could cut state programs if no deal is reached. And he said he already is looking at dates when he could call lawmakers back into a special session to deal with the deficit.

Meanwhile, high-level talks between Pawlenty and Democrats who control the Legislature continued with little or no progress reported.

Pawlenty also said a traffic safety bill still does not meet his approval, despite legislative efforts to drop provisions he does not like. And he appeared likely to veto a bill to raise the minimum wage.

As conflicts between Pawlenty and legislative leaders escalated, he left for fishing opener activities in Breezy Point and Pequot Lakes, where he plans to spend most of today and Saturday.

Among Pawlenty's options is to cut spending on his own - known as unallotment - if he and lawmakers cannot agree on a budget fix.

However, by himself he cannot use other options lawmakers are discussing, such as using surplus special funds to balance the budget. Nor can he increase tax collections on multi-national corporations, something legislators want to use as a major part of their budget-balancing scheme.

Pawlenty said negotiations have been civil and constructive, but he expressed some doubt about Democratic leaders' intentions.

"They will put a couple of stink bombs" in bills they pass, Pawlenty said.

Democratic leaders said their staff and the governor's staff continued to work out budget details throughout Thursday.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.