Gov. Mark Dayton and the GOP legislative leadership haven’t reached a budget deal, but they probably have gotten to know each other a little better.
Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch met again Monday in an attempt to strike a deal over Minnesota’s $5 billion budget shortfall. That came after a long series of meetings over the weekend aimed at forming some agreement to rescue the state from a government shutdown come July 1.
Dayton and the lawmakers wouldn’t point to any specific progress — they’ve agreed to a “cone of silence” concerning the details of their negotiations — but said the talks were positive.
“We had a very good conversation, and they had some very good questions, and I had some answers and said I wanted to think about it some more and get back tomorrow,” Dayton said.
Dayton, Koch and Zellers defended the closed-door meetings because they say it allows negotiations to be more open. The governor pushed back against reporters who questioned why more details weren’t released.
“We can have a candid conversation and everybody doesn’t have to watch every word,” he said of the negotiating policy. “I think this has enabled us to be candid with one another from all perspectives and toss out ideas.”
They’ll resume the discussions Tuesday morning in an attempt to stave off a shutdown that looms Friday. If they can’t reach a deal, about 36,000 employees would be laid off, the courts could close and parks would be shuttered.
After Dayton and the GOP leaders addressed the media on Tuesday, a Capitol security guard in the elevator asked, “Will I have my job on Friday?”
That’s not even clear to Dayton or the GOP leaders.
When questioned if he thought a government shutdown could be avoided, the governor simply responded: “Either one is possible. We will or we won’t. I’m not going to lay odds on it.”
The lawmakers’ Sunday meeting ended abruptly after a little more than an hour of talks. Dayton declined to explain why the negotiations stopped, and Monday’s afternoon meeting clocked at less than an hour.
With the end of the fiscal year coming Thursday, the pressure is on for Dayton and the GOP to reach an agreement. Dayton proposes $1.8 billion in new revenue to offset deep cuts to the state budget, while the GOP has held strong that the state government should only spend what’s at hand — roughly $34 billion.