Dayton, GOP leaders have a ‘productive’ meeting on budget

Gov. Mark Dayton and the GOP leadership came out of their day of meetings Friday and called the talks “productive,” but offered little in the way of details.

Dayton, GOP leaders, committee chairs and executive branch commissioners met throughout the day to discuss a host of budget areas from state government finance to K-12 Education, among others. It was likely the longest string of meetings that Dayton and the GOP leaders have ever had.

Although reporters were able to squeeze confirmation from the tight-lipped lawmakers that none of the negotiations over the remaining nine budget bills are completely wrapped up, they offered little else.

“We did not finalize any of the bills, but we made considerable progress on all of them,” Dayton said.

What’s the plan for Saturday? “More,” House Speaker Kurt Zellers said. Dayton added they’ll work on the taxes, environment, higher education and health and human Services bills.

It’s all part of the “lock-in” sessions — although lawmakers are allowed to leave — that the GOP proposed earlier this week as the deadline for a partial government shutdown approaches.

“We had a very constructive day,” Dayton said. “We’ve run through a number of the expenditure bills and come to agreement on considerable parts of them. We have areas of disagreement that we’ll go back to, but it was a very worthwhile day and again I feel very good about the rapport we established, the civility that prevailed and the results that we’ve achieved.”

Dayton seemed more outspoken than his legislative counterparts, although both parties agreed to leave the specifics of negotiations inside the meeting rooms.

Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch fell back on keeping information “in the room” more than the governor, and they declined to answer whether a specific government spending target — the biggest sticking point between the two sides — had been addressed.

But Dayton, for all his optimistic sentiments, dodged when asked if he’s confident about the budget negotiations: “I’m not confident of anything except the sun rising,” he said. “I don’t even know if I’ll be around, so we’ll just see what happens tomorrow.”

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