Negotiations continue over the weekend but no deal
Minnesota’s legislative leaders are still in the early stages of trying to reconcile huge differences in budget priorities between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Top leaders from both parties met in private for around six hours Saturday at the Capitol. When they emerged late Saturday afternoon, they had no deals to announce.
“Slowly but surely,” said Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, as he walked away from the Governor’s Cabinet Room on the Capitol’s ground floor.
The leaders tried to strike a deal on the agriculture budget, where the two sides differ by only $10 million in how much they want to spend. But the details of how Dayton and Republicans want to spend that money soon caused talks to get “bogged down,” Dayton said.
So they fell back to a more methodical approach: going through the budgets line-by-line and identifying where each side had an objection and where they agreed.
“We’re just working through it,” said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
The most controversial parts of the budget are being put off until later: taxes, health and human services, and school funding. On Saturday, the leaders laid out their differences on the public safety, economic development, agriculture and higher education budgets.
The Legislature is supposed to pass a budget before it adjourns May 22. If they fail to meet that deadline, they have until July 1 or any parts of the state government that haven’t been funded will be shut down. Lawmakers are ahead of their normal pace for agreeing on a budget but still have big differences to overcome.
On Saturday, Dayton predicted that he and Republican leaders would be able to resolve their differences over money on time — but might have more difficulty resolving controversial policy provisions in some of the budget bills.
Dayton has shared repeatedly with lawmakers that he wants to see policy provisions taken out of budget bills to travel separately. On Friday, a chart was shared outlining the 609 policy provisions in the bills:
- Agriculture – 2 provisions
- E-12 – 51 provisions
- Environment – 40 provisions
- Health and Human Services – 10 provisions
- Higher Education – 26 provisions
- Jobs/Energy – 35 provisions
- Public Safety – 57 provisions
- State Government – 46 provisions
- Transportation – 42 provisions
- Taxes – 300 provisions
The next step comes Monday, when the leaders will reconvene this afternoon and present written offers to each other.
“We went through a lot [on Saturday], and we’ll see Monday afternoon … what we can do in terms of reconciling our differences on numbers,” Dayton said. “That will be instructive.”