Republicans get what they want with “lights on” bill

Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have made a strategic move with the passage of “lights on” bill that would fund current state operations for two more years at current projected levels, which would increase spending by about $1.9 billion, which is what Republicans had proposed all along.

The bill is not likely to pass the DFL-controlled House. They see it as an attempt to blame the DFL and Gov. Tim Walz if no budget deal is reached and a state government shutdown comes when the current budget ends on June 30. Whether it passes the House or not, the Republicans win. If it passes, they have the state budget they want. If it doesn’t the DFL takes the blame for the shutdown. Either way, there is little incentive now for Republicans to agree to a last minute budget deal, or even keep negotiating after the session ends Monday.

It is responsible for legislators to try to prevent a government shutdown, but a two-year “lights on” bill goes beyond that. A bill for a three-month or six-month extension of the current budget, for instance, would allow for negotiations to continue, while keeping the prospect of a shutdown out ahead there to spur both sides to an agreement.

No one outside of the “cone of silence” surrounding the budget talks knows how close the DFL and Republicans might be, but it looks doubtful that an agreement will be reached before the session ends at midnight tonight. We hope an agreement will be reached before the shutdown deadline of June 30.

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