GOP leaders came to Gov. Mark Dayton Monday with their “halfway point” in the ongoing negotiations to solve Minnesota’s $5 billion budget deficit and stave off a partial government shutdown on July 1.
The Republican plan would fund K-12 education and public safety and the judiciary — nearly half of the state budget — at the same level Dayton’s proposal would, a roughly $110 million increase in those areas from the GOP’s base funding targets.
“Today we talked about kids, cops and courts,” Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told reporters after the meeting, which she called “productive.”
Despite the move toward Dayton’s priorities, no real progress emerged from the proposal, because the shifts would come without additional tax revenue and would require additional cuts in other programs to balance the spending.
GOP leaders, Dayton still at impasse
House Speaker Kurt Zellers called the move a “significant compromise from our caucus,” although Republicans are sticking hard to their $34 billion spending target.
That means the $80 million funding increase for education and the $30 million bump for public safety will come at the expense of other areas in the Republican budget.
“They are going to have to move from the $34 billion [target],” Dayton said.
More than $1 billion separate the two proposals. Despite more optimism from the governor and GOP leaders, it appeared the “halfway point” approach was a limited one.
“It’s not going to work that way with every bill,” Koch said. “We’re not going to meet the governor 100 percent; we’re not going to.”
Dayton insists that negotiations should focus on a “global” budget deal that includes new state revenue, while Republicans have stood firm against tax increases and are seeking a piece-by-piece approach.
“It doesn’t really indicate to me that they’re willing to meet halfway,” Dayton said after Republicans presented the proposal.
Koch disagreed. “We are coming 100 percent to the governor’s budget [for K-12 and Public Safety],” she said.
The bills are also rife with Republican-inspired policies and reforms, which makes negotiations more complicated. Koch said because the GOP moved to Dayton’s numbers on the budget spending targets, there is “an expectation on the reforms.”
That means Dayton would have to agree to policies — such as cuts to integration funding and special-education spending — that he has strongly opposed in the past.
The Republicans hope a special session could be called by the end of the week to pass the bills and enact “nation-leading reform in education.”
“I don’t think that’s likely,” Dayton said.
Dayton and the Republicans will meet again on Wednesday, but executive branch staff and committee chairs will convene all week to continue negotiations on individual budget bills.
Republicans thought Dayton would attend the first of such meetings — held Monday for the K-12 education bill — and were quick to criticize him when he didn’t.
“This morning was very frustrating,” GOP Rep. Tim Kelly said. “The governor apologized for the miscommunication.”
Dayton also said he won’t take part in the upcoming meetings on individual budget bills.
“I had a bunch of other things I had to do,” Dayton said, explaining why he didn’t attend the K-12 negotiations. “We’ve still got a state government to run.”