Republican legislative leaders urged Gov. Mark Dayton to come to the negotiating table and talk specifics on a budget deal, and criticized his decision to not let his commissioners appear before a legislative panel.
At a press conference, the Republicans said they’re ready to resume work on a deal to erase a projected $5 billion budget gap and fund state government for the next two years. They expressed disappointment at Dayton’s announcement earlier today that administration officials would not appear before the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy, which is scheduled to discuss the governor’s most recent budget offer.
“I think it’s time to get in the room and negotiate,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove).
Zellers also rebuffed Dayton’s suggestion to bring in a professional mediator to help facilitate budget talks, saying, “We were elected to lead.”
At a press conference earlier in the day, Dayton said he would not talk specifics on any budget compromise until lawmakers agreed to a compromise that included new revenues. Zellers said the governor’s proposed tax increases would hurt the economy and kill the potential for new job growth. Moreover, he said the Republicans’ current $34 billion budget plan is already a compromise.
“We wanted to cut government; we’re not going to get what we wanted. He wants to raise taxes; he’s not going to get what he wants. That’s the end-of-the-day compromise,” Zellers said.
Legislative leaders are scheduled to meet with Dayton in private tomorrow morning. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo) said the timing of a special session would likely be among the topics they discuss. If a biennial budget is not enacted by July 1, a state government shutdown is likely. She expressed optimism that an agreement could be reached before then.
“We have several weeks. We just need to be here every day working,” she said.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) dismissed the LCPFP hearing as political theater, and said the governor was right to not participate.
“The Republicans are going to put on a show for the people of Minnesota. … This is not a productive mechanism for moving us forward,” he said.
Thissen said Republicans need to come up with a counter-offer to Dayton’s plan, which cut his proposed tax increases roughly in half. He said the governor’s call for a mediator showed his commitment to getting a deal done.
“He’s looking and considering many different creative ways for us to kind of break this logjam that the Republicans have imposed,” he said.
Thissen said DFL lawmakers would not be present at tomorrow morning’s meeting with the governor, but would participate in the LCPFP hearing.