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Can 3 men in a fishing boat land a budget deal for Minnesota?

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News emerged on Tuesday that Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk will share a boat with Gov. Mark Dayton on Lake Vermilion during Saturday's opener of the walleye fishing season.

The image of the three most powerful figures at the Minnesota Capitol sitting elbow-to-elbow and baiting a few hooks together seemed to strike a chord that mingled amusement and hope – given how far apart their budget proposals are.

The fishing opener comes just nine days before the scheduled adjournment of the legislative session. And the big gaps between the House, Senate, and governor on their plans for the new two-year budget mean Daudt, Bakk, and Dayton have a lot of negotiating to do.

Tax cuts, transportation funding, pre-school expansion, and assorted other issues have been talked about for months.

Now, the Pioneer Press' Rachel Stassen-Berger reports, the legislative endgame will reveal which priorities really are dear to the political power brokers and which ones they're willing to bargain away.

You might expect a projected budget surplus of $1.9 billion would lead to smooth sailing this session. Instead, differing ideas about how to use the surplus have created the choppy waters of vastly different budget plans.

Sen. Dick Cohen, a St. Paul DFLer who's been at the Capitol nearly 40 years, tells MPR News he's never seen the parties so far apart in their proposals.

Cohen tells the network the prospect of a special legislative session or even a government shutdown should not be discounted.

Dayton and Bakk have been part of the end-of-session backroom negotiations before but, as the Star Tribune notes, Daudt is in his first term as speaker of the House and may be the wild card in the upcoming bargaining sessions.

Even when it comes to angling success, there are differences to reconcile. Dayton tells the Pioneer Press "Nobody on my boat ever catches a fish," while Daudt counters "I have a lucky hand when it comes to fishing."

We'll see what sort of fish tale emerges from Lake Vermilion this weekend.

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