Urgent: Dayton to accept last GOP budget offer
MINNEAPOLIS — Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton offered Thursday to end a two-week government shutdown by accepting a Republican proposal to bring more money into Minnesota’s budget.
Dayton announced in Minneapolis that he will agree to an offer legislative Republicans made just before the shutdown started, if they agree to drop a list of policy changes and a plan to reduce the state workforce by 15 percent.
GOP leaders said they were reviewing the offer and had no immediate comment.
The offer would raise $1.4 billion, half by delaying state aid checks to schools districts and the other half by selling tobacco payment bonds.
Dayton, who is offering to drop his proposal to raise top-tier income taxes, said he doesn’t like the Republican way out of the budget impasse.
“Despite my serious reservations about your plan,” the governor said in a letter to Republican House and Senate leaders, “I have concluded that continuing the state government shutdown would be even more destructive for too many Minnesotans. Therefore, I am willing to agree to something I do not agree with — your proposal — in order to spare our citizens and our state from further damage.”
Dayton is also asking lawmakers to approve a construction projects bill totaling at least $500 million.
The shutdown has closed state parks and rest stops, prevented many people from getting licenses they need to launch careers or move ahead with businesses, and cut off funding streams to countless programs. It has also cost the state millions in lost revenue.
Dayton places three conditions on his response to the GOP offer:
1. Remove policy issues to concentrate on budget agreements.
2. Drop the 15 percent across-the-board reduction to the number of employees in all agencies, regardless of funding source.
3. Support and pass a bonding bill in the special session of not less than $500 million.
“During the past two weeks, I have been listening carefully to people throughout Minnesota. They are telling me that, overwhelmingly, they want this budget dispute resolved. While they strongly prefer my proposed solution to that of the Republican Legislature, more than anything, they want this government shutdown to end. Now,” his letter to Republicans states.
Dayton visited Albert Lea and Rochester on Wednesday after spending Tuesday in St. Cloud. In Albert Lea, he met with the Albert Lea Tribune Editorial Board, House District 27A Rep. Rich Murray and about 60 business leaders in a room at the Albert Lea Business Development Center. His staff members said they were to meet Wednesday night in St. Paul for a session to review the feedback.
“Most importantly to me, this proposal bridges the remaining $1.4 million gap between us without any more drastic cuts in essential services to the people of Minnesota,” the letter states.
Aides said GOP leaders were reviewing Dayton’s offer and had no immediate comment.
If they agree to Dayton’s proposal and the pieces fall in place, the first-term governor said he is prepared to call a special session within three days.
The move was a major concession by Dayton, who has sought to soften the effect of budget cuts by raising income taxes on the highest earners. More recently, he has offered to consider an array of other revenue raisers, including cigarette and alcohol taxes and a broader sales tax.
“They want this resolved, and they don’t even care how. I care how,” Dayton told a University of Minnesota audience in Minneapolis.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.