Gov. Mark Dayton and state Republican legislative leaders Thursday afternoon agreed on a preliminary budget and took the first steps toward ending the two-week old government shutdown.
During a three-hour meeting in the governor’s office, the parties agreed to a June 30 Republican budget proposal that would not raise taxes, but would borrow money to balance the budget. The deal will raise $1.4 billion by issuing $700 million in state bonds against future tobacco revenue, and by delaying some K-12 education payments, which will bring in another $700 million.
Republicans also agreed to three conditions Dayton added to the June 30 proposal: passing a $500 million bonding bill to fund construction projects across the state, pulling back divisive social issue proposals from budget bills, and axing a plan to reduce the state workforce by 15 percent across the board.
In a tense meeting with reporters at the Capitol following the meeting, Dayton said he expects to call a special session for legislators and to pass a budget “very soon. Within days.”
St. Louis Park Rep. Steve Simon (DFL-District 44A) could not be reached for comment earlier Thursday, and St. Louis Park Sen. Ron Latz (DFL-District 44) said he couldn’t evaluate the merits of the proposal until he’d seen all the details and that he plans to review Dayton’s offer further. However, St. Louis Park Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-District 44B) criticized the plan, adding that he plans on voting against it during a special session.
“Using tobacco bonds and borrowing from our schools to balance the budget would make for the most irresponsible budget in our state's history," he said in a press release. "This budget agreement compromises our state’s future.”
Dayton said he expected to work with Republican leadership late into the night and through the weekend to finalize the plan.
“This is an agreement that is difficult for both sides,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch (R-Buffalo). “There’s been some good discussions and some coming together on agreements for reforms.”
House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said reaching a deal—as well as enduring the shutdown—has been difficult.
“We are in an imperfect situation,” Zellers said. But in the end, “We’re focused on getting the lights back on and getting the government up and running again.”
Despite the agreement, Dayton reiterated his disappointment with the deal, which he announced Thursday morning.
“I’m disappointed I wasn’t able to persuade a legislative majority of the wisdom of my approach to raise taxes on the wealthiest Minnesotans,” Dayton said. “In the absence of that,
however, this is an agreement today.”
Said Zellers: “Today was about making a deal that we’re disappointed in, but that’s done. None of us got exactly what we wanted. But we have a deal that will be done, a budget that will be balanced and a state that will be back to work.”
Koch said she expected the budget to pass the special session.
“We’re working with our caucus. We need to hammer out final details in these bills, but we’re confident,” she said. “We’re focused solely on making sure these bills are processed as quickly as possible.”
-Michael Rose and James Warden contributed to this report