GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers met briefly with Gov. Dayton during a morning meeting that focused on the K-12 budget bill. Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, characterized the talks as constructive.
“It’s safe to say that there’s agreement on what there’s disagreement on,” Garofalo said. “That’s a positive step because when you know what you disagree on you also know what you agree on.”
Garofalo said he believes that the K-12 bill could be wrapped up quickly, since he says the two sides are close on the budget figures. But there are significant policy differences. For example, he said he’s still pushing for K-12 vouchers and changes to integration aid.
“The integration funding program has spent over $1 billion and academic results have gotten worse, not better,” Garofalo said. “There will be changes to that program. I can promise you that.
Sen. Koch also said their proposal to put an additional $80 million into the budget is linked to their policy changes. Gov. Dayton and other Democrats have rejected some of the policy proposals.
“We’re miles apart on policy,” Rep. Mindy Greiling, R-Roseville said. “We have a long way to go.”
Koch says Dayton met briefly with leaders as they discussed the K-12 bill but she said they did not try to negotiate an overall budget agreement that would end the state government shutdown that began seven days ago.
Republicans have also renewed their call for Dayton to call a special session so the Legisalture can pass a bill that would partially fund state government.
“Forty-nine of 50 governors have solved budget issues,” Koch said. “The governor is the CEO of the state. We need him to step up and lead.”
When pressed, Koch was forced to acknowledge that state legisatures of all types have also finished their work. Koch also refused to say whether GOP leaders would present a budget offer to Dayton. Instead, she insisted that Republicans won’t support a tax increase to close the budget gap.
“If the governor still has his tax increase proposal on the table then that hasn’t changed that,” Koch said.
The meeting comes one day after Dayton presented a budget offer to GOP legislative leaders. One option in his offer is a temporary income tax surcharge on people with an annual salary of $1 million or more. The other option would be to increase taxes on cigarettes by $1 a pack. Both of those plans also rely on a surcharge on hospitals and HMOs and further delaying payments to schools.
Dayton said Republicans would have to present a budget offer if they don’t like his ideas.