Agreement reached to end government shutdown

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The governor and Republican legislative leaders announced agreement on a framework to end the 14-day government shutdown and resolve the state’s $5.4 billion biennial deficit.

“We are committed to working together over the next hours and couple of days, to get this nailed down so we can move into a special session as soon as possible,” said Gov. Mark Dayton when he emerged with House and Senate leadership after a three-hour meeting.

While not specific on the details, the governor said the Republicans agreed to the points laid out in his letter to leaders this morning accepting, in principle, their June 30 budget proposal.

The offer would essentially borrow another $1.4 billion: $700 million by issuing state bonds against future tobacco revenues and $700 million by increasing the school aid shift percentage from 70-30 to 60-40. A shift is when the state provides a percent of the school’s annual aid payment with a promise to pay the remainder sometime in the future.

However, the governor’s offer came with three conditions: all policy issues will be taken from the finance bills, Republicans must drop the 15 percent across-the-board reduction to state employees and a bonding bill of at least $500 million must be passed.

“The next couple of days are going to be very busy trying to expedite the details” and the timeframe for a special session has not be nailed down, said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo).

House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said he is confident that House Republicans will stand behind the agreement, but said the governor’s bonding bill will also need support from DFLers to pass.

Early in the session, the minority did not lend their support to a similar sized bill, saying it was not large enough to impact the jobs’ deficit in the state.

Zellers also said neither a Vikings stadium or gambling were included in the agreement.

Dayton said the shutdown will be over “very soon.”

In his letter, that provided the momentum for the agreement, Dayton wrote: “During these past two weeks, I have been listening carefully to people throughout Minnesota. They are telling me that, overwhelmingly, they want this budget dispute resolved. While they strongly prefer my proposed solution to that of the Republican legislature, more than anything, they want this government shutdown to end. Now.”

“Despite my serious reservations about your plan,” he continued, “I have concluded that continuing the state government shutdown would be even more destructive for too many Minnesotans.”

Members on both sides expressed concerned about the school funding shift, and the borrowing against future tobacco revenues, and said that it is not a permanent solution.

Koch said that, as part of the agreement, the Legislature will continue to move forward with their reform ideas, and cited progress in the area of Health and Human Services.

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