Negotiations over the state’s two-year budget took a sudden turn Tuesday, with Republicans claiming Gov. Mark Dayton is slow-walking a deal, which has led them to ready their own budget plans for a vote.
The move comes after days of closed-door negotiations between Dayton and GOP leaders in the Legislature that, by all accounts, were moving slowly but surely toward a deal. But their most recent meeting on Monday broke up after Dayton made offers to Republicans on the public safety, agriculture, economic development and higher education budgets. Between those offers, Dayton reduced his proposed spending by about $74 million, he said.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said those offers were “unacceptable.” “The steps were so small on the smallest bills that we didn’t know how we could possibly get there,” Gazelka said. “I think they were sincere first offers, but they were unacceptable and would not lead to getting done on time.”
In a statement, Dayton said he’s met with legislators for the last six days to work out their differences on a budget and made four budget offers.
“Instead of returning to the table with their counteroffers, as we had agreed they would do – Republicans are instead choosing to double down on their original budget bills with no compromises,” Dayton said in a statement. “I am hopeful that those who are in the Legislative Leadership have the ability, resolve, and political courage to come back to the table so we can finish the job Minnesotans sent us to Saint Paul to do on their behalf.”
Dayton and Republicans plan to meet Tuesday afternoon to continue going over the budget bills. Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said that meeting must be productive or the House and Senate could move start taking votes in their own budget bills — without a compromise. That could force Dayton to veto budget bills and start the process over.
Lawmakers are trying to pass a budget deal and meet a May 22 deadline to adjourn. If a budget deal is not passed in time, Dayton could call legislators back into a special session. They must find a deal before July 1, the start of the fiscal year, or state government operations will automatically shut down.