Dayton, DFL lawmakers call for compromise


Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislative leaders said Republicans are unwilling to compromise and that their budget plan protects wealthy Minnesotans at the expense of the middle class.

At a press conference, Dayton and the DFLers renewed their call for Republican leaders to agree to raise new revenues to help erase a projected $5 billion budget gap. The governor said he’s cut his call for tax increases in half, but Republicans haven’t budged from their $34 billion budget target and refuse to consider new revenue sources.

“Every effort I’ve made to compromise has been flat-out rejected. And their position has remained the same: ‘Our way or no way,’” Dayton said.

Lawmakers and the governor have eight days to enact a new biennial budget for the state. If no new budget is in place by July 1, some or all state government services may be forced to shut down.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) said that Dayton’s proposed $1.8 billion in tax increases would mainly impact the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans. In contrast, he said the Republicans’ budget plan would increase property taxes, raise college tuition and force 140,000 Minnesotans off of health insurance.

“The choice is clear: we can either ask those richest 2 percent of Minnesotans to play their part in resolving this budget deficit, or we can continue to squeeze middle-class families,” Thissen said.

The governor said he would not call a special session until and unless there is a budget deal. He said there is still time to negotiate a global agreement, but Republicans must agree to compromise with him on the issue of new revenues.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) said the Republicans do not necessarily have to go along with the governor’s plan for tax increases on the wealthy, but they must offer a new revenue plan of their own

In a press conference outside the governor’s office, Sen. Geoff Michel (R-Edina) said it’s Dayton who’s not compromising. He said Republicans already agreed to give up tax cuts, and that Dayton’s demand for new revenues is unreasonable.

“It does sound to me like the governor is saying, ‘My way, which is $1.8 billion more, or I’m not even going to listen to you — my way, or I’m not even going to entertain these other budget bills,’” he said.

Michel said there are many budget areas where the Republicans’ plan is nearly identical to Dayton’s. He said the governor should call lawmakers into special session to pass some of the budget bills and help avert a government shutdown.

“We have half of the budget teed up right now.… Why would you hold that hostage and collapse everything into a shutdown?” he said.

Michel said the Republicans’ proposed budget would increase General Fund spending by 6 percent over the current biennium. He said it would already be the largest budget in state history, even without any tax increases.