Republicans move again to pass their own state budget

Republicans who control the Minnesota Legislature will pass a new round of budget bills that lack the support of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, putting them on course for a probable special session.

The move announced Friday afternoon follows an unfruitful week of budget negotiations that broke down over the size of tax cuts versus new state spending. Minnesota has a roughly $1.5 billion surplus.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt said recent discussions were resulting in progress, but not enough.

“We have come to the point where the time clock means we have to start our conference committees and start moving our bills,” Daudt said.

Dayton vetoed an earlier round of budget bills and issued a long list of objections to them. The Republicans said they would try to accommodate some of those concerns.

“This does not mean we are walking away from the table with the governor,” Daudt said. He said the $660 million tax cut target was exactly between where they were and where Dayton had been.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said the sides had gotten “close” on several budget measures. “We’ve come halfway on our part and we’re asking the governor finish up with us, on time,” he said.

They hope to resume negotiations Friday night and continue to talk to Dayton even as they go this route.

“We all want to get done on time and we think we can do it,” Gazelka said.

As the situation approached a stalemate this week, DFL lawmakers criticized Republicans for posturing by trying to jam a budget through without a negotiated deal.

“It’s not just our duty here to pass a budget, claim that it’s balanced and call it a day,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park. “Our job in the Legislature is to act together with the governor to pass a budget that becomes law.”

If Dayton strikes down the newest set of bills, it would force lawmakers into a special session to pass a third plan. That task would have to be completed by June 30 to avoid pushing the state into another partial government shutdown in July.

The last time Minnesota entered the new fiscal year without a full budget was in 2011, which was also the last time Republicans controlled the Legislature and Dayton was in the governor’s office.