Lawmakers enter last month of 2017 session

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After years of failing to complete a comprehensive transportation bill, lawmakers say there's a need to get it across the finish line by the end of the session on May 22.

But one obstacle for the GOP appears to have gotten easier this week as Governor Dayton softened his opposition to a bill that doesn't include a gas-tax hike. We meet again bright and early Monday morning to work out the differences between the House and the Senate bills.

The GOP-controlled House and Senate have approved funding packages that rely on borrowing, tapping part of a healthy budget surplus and shifting $400 million-plus in existing taxes on vehicle parts, rentals and leases from the state's general fund to its dedicated transportation fund.

While the Republican-controlled House and Senate have passed their own budgets, the final product will be negotiated with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. But he said Thursday he wouldn't veto a bill without that funding mechanism.

Dayton said earlier this month that he was not able to unilaterally change the rules around drivers' licenses for immigrants living in the state illegally, a major concern for Republicans. The GOP is pursuing almost $1 billion or more in tax cuts and some drastic cuts to government services.

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Although Dayton still stressed he believes a 10-cent gas tax bump is the best route and cautioned that he'll safeguard government programs that could lose out on money rerouted to transportation funds, he's outnumbered by Republicans who now control both the House and Senate.

The House is looking at $6 billion over the next ten years, while the Senate is proposing about $3.6 billion over the same time period.

That leaves most lawmakers in a holding pattern. Sen.

Minnesota Security Hospital staff want at least part of the state budget - about $25 million - to go toward hiring 335 more workers at the St. Peter facility. "But Republican majorities in the House and Senate want to provide far less support to cities and counties that receive LGA and CPA this session".

"That is our responsibility to do that", she said. "So it's really disappointing that that hasn't been included". A conference committee began meeting this week.

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