GOP legislative leaders say they had a “very productive” meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton at his residence Friday and presented him with a month-long plan to hold more meetings.
“It’s a roadmap between now and, hopefully, an agreement,” House Majority Leader Matt Dean said afterward under the carport of the governor’s St. Paul residence.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel said the meeting was “short on some of the substance” of how lawmakers and Dayton expect to close Minnesota’s $5 billion deficit — a problem that has plagued them since January.
“There’s a lot more to do,” Michel said. “This is going to be a very busy June, but this is an important first step.”
Coming out of the scheduling meeting, Dayton said he was more optimistic than he has been previously that budget negotiations could avert a partial government shutdown on July 1.
Much as they did at the end of session in May, Dayton and GOP leaders will meet multiple times a week in June. His commissioners and legislative committee chairs will also be available to discuss individual budget bills.
Education is first on the docket for Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said they worked this morning on a “framework, a roadmap, a schedule” but did not discuss any new revenue to bolster the GOP’s $34 billion budget proposal.
“He’s going to continue to push us on that,” Koch said.
The Republicans unsurprisingly remained firm that they wouldn’t raise taxes or spend more than what’s in the state’s coffers. That makes the prospects for further progress dim, especially since Dayton says he’s already compromised as much as he’s willing to.
“Even though the money is the question,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, referring to the more than $1 billion difference between the GOP’s plan and Dayton’s, the speaker said a significant amount of policy discussions must also continue if any agreement is to be reached.
Today’s meeting between Dayton and the GOP chairs came a day after each side hammered each other separately over the budget, and after the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy convened for the first time this year.
While significantly more cordial than Thursday’s dueling sound bites and talk of potential subpoenas for Dayton commissioners — Michel expressed his “relentless optimism” — there were some harsh words from the governor after the meeting.
Dayton — for the third time, he says — requested that GOP leaders provide a proposal that would meet him halfway. Dayton, who released his “halfway point” weeks ago, hopes to get that plan by Monday.
But the GOP lawmakers, who spoke before Dayton came out of his home to address the press, didn’t make any mention of the request, or their willingness to comply.
If Republicans aren’t willing to meet the Monday deadline, “then that timetable, all of those meetings are just for show,” Dayton said. “It’s impossible to reach an agreement if they’re just going to stand on $34 billion.”
The GOP leaders are seeking a special session for the last week of June, but Dayton said, “I won’t call them back until we have an agreement.”
He didn’t seem perturbed by the public relations war raging over whose fault a shutdown would be. The governor reiterated his talking points and said that Republicans attempting to “misrepresent” his budget and tax plans “know they’re on thin ice.”
With a partial shutdown becoming more likely, the GOP leaders were questioned about a “lights-on” package that would avert the most drastic effects of a government closure.
“We’re open to multiple scenarios and options,” Michel said. “We don’t want to back ourselves into a corner.”