- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 18, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s legislative leaders entered a stare-down Wednesday, holding firm to some of their wildly different positions on transportation funding and other spending priorities as time ticks away in the session.

The latest round of private negotiations between Gov. Mark Dayton and leaders from the Democrat-led Senate and Republican-controlled House lasted just 15 minutes, and the politicians didn’t report any progress or plans to resume talks. Instead, they emerged and repeated some of their long-held bargaining positions that have kept a compromise out of reach.

The biggest sticking point is how to fund $600 million in annual road and bridge repairs, but deals on tax relief and other spending priorities remain in the works.

Dayton referenced a list of demands he issued to lawmakers earlier this week, including funding for the state’s mental health facilities, $25 million for a phased-in preschool program and $100 million in broadband Internet development grants. Without that money, he said, the tax relief package House Speaker Kurt Daudt has envisioned is out of the question.

Noting the divide over paying for such mass transit projects as a new light-rail train line - Democrats want the line and GOP lawmakers say it’s a nonstarter - Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said the entire transportation funding package is “probably off our plate.”

A deal to fund the road and bridge repairs still could come together quickly, but time is running out. Minnesota’s Legislature adjourns Monday, and the measures needed to make the deal happen must pass the Legislature by midnight on Sunday. It was unclear when legislative leaders would meet again.

“We really need to get things wrapped up,” Daudt said.

House Republicans put another long-awaited piece in play Wednesday, releasing an $800 million list of public construction projects that many Democrats derided as far too small. Dayton and other DFLers have put forward public works packages with more than $1.4 billion in construction projects.


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