Against the backdrop of Republican protests, Gov. Mark Dayton is embarking on a tour of the state to bring what he says are the evils of the GOP budget to the people of Minnesota.
Dayton on Monday again reiterated the need for compromise in coming to a budget solution and called on the GOP leadership to bring him a counteroffer. So far, they haven’t provided an in-kind response to the offer Dayton laid out last week.
“I thought last week I would be receiving a counterproposal,” Dayton said. “I am still waiting for a counteroffer.”
The Republican leaders, who responded to Dayton’s comments Monday afternoon, said they’re still working on a new proposal. There’s some indication a counteroffer could come early this week. “Stay tuned,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said.
Dayton will be visiting St. Cloud, Rochester, Winona, Albert Lea and Moorhead, among others, over the week. The governor said he’ll be “immediately available” if the GOP requests more negotiations.
So, why aren’t they constantly negotiating? Why haven’t the governor and lawmakers met since Thursday? Neither side could provide a straight answer.
Instead, they repeated what we’ve heard since the government shut down on July 1.
Koch and the GOP leaders repeated their requests for Dayton to call a special session to pass a temporary “lights-on” funding bill and, at least in part, criticized Dayton for leaving the Capitol to bring his message to Minnesotans around the state.
“What I would ask is, ‘Governor, before you get in your car … call us back tonight. Let’s get a lights-on bill done,” Koch said.
In addition to passing a temporary funding measure, the GOP leaders would like to pass six of the remaining nine budget bills where they say negotiations have brought them close to the governor’s proposals. Dayton, however, says that would too narrowly limit negotiations on the last three bills — Health and Human Services, State Government Finance, and Tax Aids and Credits.
Without the deadline created by a 30-day funding bill, for instance, Senate Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel said: “It just feels like we’re grinding — another day, another day.”
For his part, Dayton called a lights-on approach “a ploy.”
Both sides highlighted the compromise proposals they’ve floated since the session began. Dayton reminded reporters that the GOP leaders have rejected three proposals — including his latest plan to add a $1 per pack tax to cigarettes, increase health care surcharges and shift K-12 school payments further into the future.
Michel said the GOP has presented Dayton with 10 compromise offers since the session began. Either way, Minnesota has now entered the longest government shutdown in recent U.S. history.
Dayton, who said he’s driving or flying commercial instead of using the state airplane, won’t take sole responsibility for the shutdown, despite the best efforts of GOP operatives to paint that scenario.
“I don’t think the people believe that,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is served now by playing the blame game.”
When asked if the shutdown is both parties’ fault, House Majority Leader Matt Dean answered in the affirmative, but it appeared painful for him to do so.
“Well absolutely,” Dean said. “We were not able to come together, and nobody feels good about that, but on the same token the shutdown should have been avoided, 100 percent should have been avoided. It was preventable …”
Both sides affirmed that they’re willing to try anything, from calling in Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon to considering “any reasonable proposal” to solve the $1.4 billion impasse that’s stopping the GOP and Dayton from solving a $5 billion deficit.
But, despite the promising language, is there any end in sight? Not really.
“I’m going to hold out for a fair budget for the people of Minnesota,” Dayton said. “I wouldn’t have started down this path if I weren’t willing to do it because I think there is so much at stake for the people whose lives depend upon these services.”
“What the governor is saying is that the only way to talk about negotiation is ‘How much more money we’re going to tax and who are we going to get it from?’ If we’re going to set that up as the only frame around negotiations, that’s not going to get us very far because that obviously hasn’t gotten us very far thus far, Dean said.
“There has to be a very sudden injection of reality, I think, into these discussions immediately to get to the next step.”