Tough talk from Dayton, GOP as final budget bills passST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton delivered a tough speech Thursday in his first meeting with legislative Republicans, accusing them of refusing to negotiate.
By: Don Davis, The Hastings Star-Gazette
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton delivered a tough speech Thursday in his first meeting with legislative Republicans, accusing them of refusing to negotiate.
Many Republicans were just as tough on Dayton later, saying he does not understand that they will not raise taxes and state spending like he wants.
The good news coming out of the hour-long meeting was that Dayton will meet today with legislators working on two key bills. But the two sides appeared to be growing no closer as a Monday deadline looms to pass the state budget.
Republicans passed their final budget bills Thursday, spending $34 billion while not raising taxes. Dayton said on Thursday that he has major problems with each of the nine bills, strongly hinting every bill will be vetoed.
Republican legislative leaders and Dayton plan to meet first thing this morning, before legislative negotiators meet with the governor about education and state government funding.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said that when the budget bills are vetoed, Republicans will look at Dayton’s objections and try to produce new bills that he could sign.
With so few days left, however, most people around the Capitol expect the regular session to end without a budget deal. That would force Dayton to call a special session to finish budget work.
Republicans insist that $34 billion is the most the state will spend in the next two years, rejecting tax increases Dayton wants. Dayton wants to spend $35.8 billion. His latest proposal, offered Monday, would raise income taxes on the top 2 percent of Minnesota’s earners.
Dayton told Republicans that the state’s founders wanted a division of power between the governor and Legislature.
“Your stated refusal to meet me half way between our respective budget proposals disregards this well-established wisdom,” Dayton said in prepared remarks.
He added: “The only option you offer me is to give in to you entirely and sign your budget bills as you have unilaterally written and passed them.”
A rookie lawmaker wondered if Democrat Dayton got Republicans’ message that they will spend no more than $34 billion.
“We’ve, maybe, been a little too polite,” Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, said after the private meeting.
Dayton’s remarks at the Capitol meeting did not set well with many Republicans, especially freshman.
Rookie Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, said Dayton does not understand that Republicans already have compromised. Hancock said that Republicans would prefer to spend the same as in the current budget, about $31 billion, but increased that $3 billion earlier this year.
“We are meeting him half way,” Hancock said. “There is a general feeling on our part that $34 billion is a compromise.”
Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said there is no need to talk about how much to spend because Republicans have set their upper limit.
“Let’s talk about where we are going to spend it,” Kelly said.
Kiel said she was disappointed in the Dayton appearance and his unwillingness to negotiate.
She expressed doubt that Dayton will seriously negotiate public school and state government funding this morning.
“I’m hoping the governor heard us,” she said.
Veteran Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he thought the meeting went well.
Howes said Dayton indicated a willingness to look at a major Republican concern: Republicans often complain that raising taxes on individuals also can hurt businesses because many businesses file their tax returns via individual income taxes. Howes said Dayton pledged to look at ways to avoid hurting businesses in his tax increase.
Still, Howes said, the GOP plan to raise spending 6 percent is enough.
“The governor is set with what he wants to do and we are set with what we want to do,” Howes said.
Having spent 14 years in the House, Howes said he remains optimistic because major budget deals can come about in 24 hours.
In his speech, Dayton told Republicans that voters gave both sides a mandate in November’s election.
“If you had your way,” he said, “only your mandate would prevail.”
He urged Republican lawmakers to think of about all Minnesotans, “not only the ones who voted for you -- or for me.”
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.