Dayton ‘disappointed’ by GOP budget move

House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka outlined the latest Republican budget numbers. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says he’s disappointed that Republicans in the House and Senate are moving ahead with another round of budget bills without his blessing.

GOP leaders announced Friday that they decided to set their own budget targets because time is running out on the session and negotiations with the governor have so far failed to produce a deal.

Dayton, who vetoed an earlier batch of bills, said he can’t judge the new Republican bills until he learns more about the financial and policy details.

“If we’re close enough there and there’s no policy in them, then I could sign them,” Dayton said. “I would like to sign as many as I can, if they’re responsible.”

Dayton said he want to keep negotiating. Republicans said they do too. A meeting was scheduled for Saturday morning.

Dayton remains concerned about controversial policy provisions getting in the way of agreement on budget bills and a timely conclusion to the session. During a public television interview, Dayton accused Republicans trying to get him to “swallow” policy he disagrees with by tucking them into budget bills.

“I’m not going to swallow,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said during a Friday news conference that the second round of budget bills will have policy provisions, but fewer than in the first round.

“Our end goal is to have bills that the governor can sign, that the people of Minnesota will look at and say this is really good for Minnesota,” Gazelka said.

The Republican budget targets moved closer to the governor in several areas. Their tax bill is now at $660 million, down from the $1.1 billion bill that Dayton vetoed.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said the reworked targets represent real compromise.

“We have moved our positions pretty significantly,” Daudt said.

Democrats criticized Republicans for moving ahead without on agreement.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said GOP leaders were not flexible enough to close the deal with the governor. Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Republicans are underestimating the power of the executive branch.

“Governors always have a very strong hand,” Bakk said. “The governor doesn’t want a special session. He wants a negotiated deal. But he’s not going to take a bad deal either.”