Dayton, Republicans plan extensive budget talks over weekend


Republican legislative leaders said Gov. Mark Dayton has agreed to meet with them extensively over the weekend to try to hash out a deal on the state budget.

With eight days left to enact a budget and avoid a potential state government shutdown, House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said the leaders will meet with Dayton and “literally lock ourselves in a room” and work toward an agreement. Zellers said he, Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) will seek a “framework” for a budget deal.

“From Friday and Saturday, we will spend all day — the governor, the majority leader and I — in a room, negotiating bills,” Zellers said.

Koch said she and Zellers plan to focus on budget areas where there is significant consensus with the governor, such as K-12 education and transportation funding, and work out agreements on those first. Dayton has frequently stated that he wants a deal on new revenue before discussing individual budget bills, but Koch said Dayton agreed to their negotiation plan.

“We can solve this budget. And in certain areas, we’re incredibly close. In certain areas, we’re a little further away, but we need to get down and dig into these bills,” Koch said.

Asked whether new revenue options would be on the table during the negotiations, Zellers did not answer directly. He said holding up budget bills on which there is general agreement because of an argument over whether to raise taxes would be “letting the really, really perfect get in the way of the pretty darn good.”

Koch said that ideally, once Dayton and Republican leaders find agreement on some of the budget bills, there would be a special session to enact them into law. She did not say whether Dayton has agreed to such a plan.

The leaders did not say exactly when and where the talks would be held.