In an unusual show of bipartisanship, the top three leaders in Minnesota government shared a fishing boat Saturday morning at the Governor's Fishing Opener on Lake Vermilion.
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk announced earlier this week they would fish together with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, in part to try and break the stalemate over a new two-year state budget.
And while they had great luck catching walleye – 35 fish among the three of them – they didn't land a budget deal.
The final tally on the day was 14 walleye for Bakk, 12 for Daudt and nine for Dayton, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
When they reached shore, Everyone on the boat was puffing on celebratory cigars.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith also had a good outing, as evidenced by this photo:
In a brief news conference afterward, the three leaders said they enjoyed their three-hour outing on the lake.
"Great time, great guide, great camaraderie," said Gov. Dayton. "That's what fishing is all about."
Apparently, fishing is not about political negotiations – at least not Saturday.
"Everybody asked if we were going to solve the state's budget while we were out there, " Daudt said. "The fishing was too good, so we didn't get it solved."
There's just nine days left 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, preschool expansion, and assorted other issues have been talked about for months.
The Pioneer Press 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.
Early this year, many expected the projected budget surplus of $1.9 billion would lead to smooth sailing this session. Instead, differing ideas about how to use the surplus have led to vastly different budget plans from the two parties.
Some longtime legislators, including Sen. Dick Cohen, a St. Paul DFLer, say they've never seen the two parties so far apart in their budget proposals.
Cohen told MPR News the prospect of a special legislative session or even a government shutdown should not be discounted.
Bakk and Daudt met privately to discuss budget matters on Wednesday and Thursday, according to MPR News, and they are scheduled to meet again on Sunday. It's not clear whether Dayton will be part of those discussions