Another deal-less day underway

Republican legislative leaders emerged from Gov. Mark Dayton’s office this afternoon reporting that “nothing big” came from an hour-long meeting.

State lawmakers have until midnight Monday to reach a budget agreement that erases a projected $5 billion deficit. But the two sides remain deeply divided over taxes and spending cuts.

“Whenever we’re meeting, whenever we’re face to face, that’s good for all of us,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove. “It’s good for finishing on time.”

But Zellers and his GOP colleagues still aren’t budging on their opposition to any tax increases, or any spending for the next two years beyond an available $34 billion. Dayton insists on raising income taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent to ease the impact of spending cuts.

“We’re not going to be raising taxes. We don’t believe we need new revenues to solve this budget,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo. “We’ve got a budget passed, on the governor’s desk that lives within our means.”

Dayton has also been meeting with GOP committee chairs to discuss individual budget bills. Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, the chair of the House Higher Education committee, said he talked to the governor for about a half hour. He said the areas of concern included a provision in the bill that bans human cloning.

“We don’t think it’s a problem, but they’re going to check with the university (of Minnesota) and see how they feel about it,” Nornes said. “Obviously, if there are very strong feelings about it, if it does some negative things to the university, we’d probably look at making a change.”

A spokeswoman for the governor offered no immediate comment on the meeting. But House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, confirmed the lack of progress.

“It didn’t appear to me that the Republicans were willing to move off of their position, not withstanding Gov. Dayton’s willingness on Monday with his significant move,” Thissen said. “We haven’t seen a single change in six days and that’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing.”

Thissen also said he remains deeply disappointed by last night’s House passage of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages. But Zellers was already moving on.

“That’s behind us now,” Zellers said.