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Dayton, lawmakers begin series of budget meetings

Lawmakers and Gov.

Lawmakers and Gov. Mark Dayton began a series of “lock-in” budget negotiation meetings Friday morning that are expected to last over the weekend and could help avert a disastrous government shutdown come July 1.

The GOP leadership and Dayton agreed to the meetings earlier this week as a last-minute attempt to dodge the shutdown and solve Minnesota’s $5 billion budget deficit.

Thursday’s Ramsey Court shutdown hearing and Ramsey District Court Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin’s warnings about the potential shutdown’s calamitous effects serve as a stark reminder for lawmakers of the importance of reaching a deal before June 30.

Dayton and lawmakers established ground rules Friday morning – they won’t discuss the specifics of their negotiations until they’ve come to a deal.

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“We’ll get more done, more effectively if we just say, ‘OK, we’re not going to comment on the particulars till we have a result,’” Dayton said.

They started initial discussions and began reviewing budget spreadsheets Friday morning, but there’s no specific plan how the meetings will progress into Saturday.

Showing, perhaps, a glimmer of progress, Dayton and the GOP leaders appeared together to address the press for the first time in weeks. That marks a significant change from the dueling soundbites that typically dominate these talks.