Budget negotiations begin
Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton met Wednesday for about an hour behind closed doors, laying the groundwork for negotiations going forward over budget bills currently stuck in conference committee.
House and Senate conferees have reached agreements on most budget bills and now it’s up to House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) to find agreement with Dayton and DFL leaders. Their talks will continue Thursday, they said, with both Dayton and Republican leaders claiming they will first focus on the higher education and agriculture finance omnibus bills.
“I think what we’re going to try to do (Thursday) is start with some bills that are easier so we can show some progress and get everyone kind of feeling good about working together,” Daudt said during a press briefing after the meeting.
Senate Republican Majority Leader Paul Gazelka says, “Why not take the low-hanging fruit first? I think that’s what we’re trying to say. The governor’s in agreement that we should at least try to do that.”
Governor Dayton says when they start negotiating the environment and jobs bills, which have a number of controversial provisions both sides disagree on, “that’ll be the acid test. If we could clear one of those or both those away in a reasonable amount of time, then we’ll know we’re on track… that… [this] can be resolved in a timely conclusion.” But he adds, “If we get bogged down in one of those as we got bogged down in 2015… then I will conclude that this is not a practical way of resolving our differences. But we want to give it a try.”
Dayton and Republicans must agree on a number of controversial measures, including E-12 education funding, a human services budget and tax cuts before the May 22nd deadline or a special session will be needed. House Speaker Kurt Daudt says, “We have to find budget bills that the governor will sign. That’s how this works. He also has to get us to send him bills. He can’t pass his own bills. So we have to work together.”