Republican leaders make new budget offer

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In their latest meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton, Republican leaders offered to meet the governor’s spending proposals on K-12 education and public safety, but said they would not pay for the additional spending with tax increases.

In a press conference following an hour-long meeting with the governor, the leaders said their “kids, cops and courts” proposal puts them equal with the governor on nearly half of the state’s budget.

“This is a significant compromise from the members of our caucus and our leadership,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove).

The offer would increase the Republicans’ current budget targets by $80 million on education and $30 million on public safety. It would also require Dayton to accept nearly all of the proposed policy reforms in the corresponding budget bills. The leaders said they remain committed to their promise of not raising taxes, and indicated the funding increases proposed for these budget areas may require reductions elsewhere.

“We’re focusing on a bill-by-bill basis,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo).

Dayton did not give any indication of whether he would agree to their proposal, but said he was encouraged by the meeting.

“I appreciate the offer that the leadership made,” he said.

Dayton said the overall picture remains the same: Republicans must agree to meet him halfway on his proposal to raise new revenues. Otherwise, he said the net effect would be to merely shift the burden into other areas of the budget.

“It’s going to be a question of whether they’re willing to reach out on the revenue side as well as the spending side,” he said.

If a biennial budget is not enacted by July 1, a state government shutdown is possible. After the latest meeting, Dayton said he is “slightly more optimistic” that a shutdown can be averted.

Legislative leaders are scheduled to meet again with Dayton on Wednesday, June 8.