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Talks continue, but Capitol mostly quiet on shutdown's third day
The halls of the State Capitol were silent Sunday, until a small group of legislative leaders showed up around 5 p.m. for another round of budget talks. The topic was how to raise the money needed to pay for proposed spending increases.

St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - You could've heard a pin drop in the vacant corridors of the State Capitol Sunday, day three of the state's partial government shutdown.

Most lawmakers headed home for the holiday weekend a day earlier, and when a small group of legislative leaders finally showed up around 5 p.m. for another round of meetings, their voices echoed up to the soaring ceilings of the empty building.

The topic of Sunday's meeting, which was attended by all four top legislative leaders as well as Gov. Tim Pawlenty's chief of staff, was how to raise the money needed to pay for proposed spending increases. The leaders got a report from Democratic Sen. Larry Pogemiller and Republican Rep. Phil Krinkie, the top tax negotiators from their respective chambers.

"They've been engaged to find the revenue that's available," said House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon.

The Sunday meeting lasted nearly two hours. Participants said afterward that the revenue discussions were general, but they directed the tax group to prepare a more detailed report for presentation to lawmakers when they return Tuesday.

In the meantime, the legislative leaders said they'd meet again Monday afternoon.

Krinkie said as of Saturday, the House and Senate were about $660 million apart in the amount of new revenue they were proposing to spend over the next two years. That's out of a total budget of around $30 billion.

The divide is actually several hundred million dollars larger than it was a few nights earlier, when talks between legislative leaders and Pawlenty broke down just hours before the deadline for the partial shutdown.

But, Krinkie said, both sides are still sticking with some concessions made to create a more palatable revenue package for both sides. He said Senate Democrats are keeping their promise of abandoning a proposed income tax increase, while Republicans aren't planning on a casino at Canterbury Park.

Another proposed source of revenue, an increase in the wholesale fee on a pack of cigarettes, is at 20 cents a pack in the House proposal and 75 cents in the Senate's, Krinkie said.

One dispute has been whether to decide on the total amount of new revenue first, as House Republicans and Pawlenty want, or to first decide how much to spend on public schools and health programs and then set the revenue, as Democrats want.

But Senate Democratic Leader Dean Johnson said Sunday he was pushing to make those determinations on "parallel tracks" in order to allay concerns on both sides.

Johnson, wearing shorts as he headed into the meeting, was just back from a quick trip home to Willmar. He spent the morning performing services at Calvary Lutheran Church, where he's a pastor.

He said members of the congregation wanted to talk to him about the budget stalemate and the government shutdown.

"They were affirming - they were not critical," Johnson said. "They want us to make the best decisions for the people of the state. But, they were wanting the special session to end."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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