Quick State Budget Just Not In The Cards

May 23 is the date Minnesotans interested in following the Legislature should remember.

That is the last day the state constitution allows lawmakers to meet in regular session. And from the sounds of things just before the session begins at noon Tuesday, Minnesotans should not expect to see a completed budget much before then.

“It is intended to be a five-month process,” Gov.-elect Mark Dayton said in a Forum Communications interview.

And that might be even truer in 2011 with a governor who had less time than usual to prepare for office, thanks to an election recount, and a slate of rookie legislative leaders.

“They, understandably, need time to get their bearings,” Dayton said about House and Senate leaders who were picked after the Nov. 2 election.

Republicans will control of both legislative chambers Tuesday, the first time that has happened in four decades. Few Senate Republicans ever have been in a majority and both bodies have so many freshmen lawmakers that many committee chairmen say they need to take quite a bit of time bringing experts to meetings so new lawmakers can learn about agencies they oversee.

While some issues, such as lifting a moratorium on nuclear power plant construction, could come early, the biggest bills no doubt will not surface until late in the session.

The biggest bills of all, those funding state government, hardly can start until March. While Dayton must deliver a budget proposal to lawmakers by Feb. 15, an early-March economic report will force him to tweak his first spending plan. And lawmakers likely will wait until after the March report to release their ideas.

And a week-long recess is expected in April for Easter and Passover.