In the final hours before Minnesota’s government shuts down, Republican lawmakers renewed their call for Gov. Mark Dayton to call a special session to pass a “lights on” temporary funding bill.
It’s becoming increasingly apparent that a budget deal between Dayton and the GOP leaders remains elusive as their meetings — some only minutes long — butt up against the midnight deadline that separates state solvency from a government shutdown.
Although lawmakers appear outwardly optimistic that a shutdown can be averted, little is known about the talks taking place inside the closed-door budget negotiations. There currently are no further meetings scheduled between the GOP and Dayton, although that’s subject to change.
“We know that we’re close and we just call on and ask the governor, ‘Please let’s keep the state of Minnesota open,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told reporters. “It’s the Fourth of July weekend … We ask the governor, ‘Please don’t shut us down for a tax increase.’ ”
The GOP leaders asked Dayton — as they said they have in their meetings with him — to call the Legislature “back to work.”
But House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said that Dayton remains firm — he won’t call a special session to pass temporary state funding until the framework of a total budget agreement is in place.
“We’re up against a deadline,” Dayton said on Tuesday of his opposition to a lights-on bill without a global solution. “Deadlines are what move people to make agreements if they’re going to reach an agreement, so that’s what we’re up against and I don’t see any benefit of just extending that uncertainty for another couple of days. We’ll either reach an agreement or we won’t.”
Both the GOP and DFL leaders — Dayton hasn’t addressed reporters in two days — said they’re still optimistic a deal can be reached tonight, although there isn’t a solid proposal yet.
When asked if Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk could get their caucuses to vote for a deal, they responded: “There’s nothing to vote on; a deal has not been reached.”
Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers said they’ve got their members in St. Paul and are ready to work something out. They said much of the negotiations Thursday revolved around the Health and Human Services budget bill.
Koch, under the “cone of silence,” wouldn’t confirm or deny if new revenue — the key to Dayton’s proposal — is on the table. So far, the GOP has remained adamant that state government shouldn’t spend more in a two-year budget than what it will have on hand — about $34 billion.
The shutdown’s impending reality struck the Capitol just before 5 p.m.
Security closed the Capitol and forced members of the public without an I.D. badge out of the building. State Troopers stood in front of cordoned-off doors and led chanting protesters to the exits.