Budget talks break down at Capitol

Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday explained the latest snag in budget negotiations. Tim Pugmire|MPR News
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Budget negotiations between DFL Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders broke down Wednesday night with the two sides accusing each other of not making sufficient compromises to reach a deal.

With  just five days left in the session it’s unclear when talks will resume.

Dayton made an offer Wednesday afternoon that gave Republicans less than $700 million of the $1.5 billion projected budget surplus to divide between two of their priorities: tax cuts and transportation funding. Not surprisingly, GOP leaders rejected the proposal.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, accused the governor of moving backwards from his early positions on both areas. He said Republicans made a counter offer that moved a bit closer to Dayton’s position on tax cuts and spending, but Dayton didn’t like it.

Despite the setback, Gazelka said he isn’t giving up.

“We’re going to keep negotiating and working. We know we have to come to an agreed end, or at least we think we need to. The governor was very upset. We know that we just have to keep working toward a positive conclusion for Minnesota.”

Dayton said his offer was “Minnesota fair” because it would have met Republicans halfway. GOP leaders flatly reject that calculation and characterization.

Dayton accused Republicans of wanting to cut state programs and services “to the bone” to pay for a “tax giveaway.” He also suggested that he’s done compromising.

“We’re not making an offer that goes beyond halfway,” he said. “This is what happened in 2011. We were $3 billion apart, I dropped $1.5 billion and said I’ll meet you halfway. They didn’t budge. We ended up in a shutdown. If they won’t budge, that’s probably what we have in the cards.”

Budget talks weren’t the only snag.

House Republicans suffered a setback in their effort to pass an $800 million bonding bill when Democrats held back their support. The GOP-crafted package of public construction projects needed some DFL help to reach the three-fifths majority required for borrowing measures. It fell 11 votes short.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL- St. Paul, said Republicans left out too many projects on college campuses. She said her side wants a bigger bill.

“We’re all sort of settling in on a $995 million bill, and we need a little bit of cash, maybe $50 million general fund, because there are some of those projects that aren’t bondable. We would have a bill that would come to the House and Senate floor, it would pass overwhelmingly with bipartisan votes, and it would help the whole state of Minnesota.”

Republicans tried unsuccessfully to convince Democrats to support the bill to get it to conference committee with the Senate. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, questioned why Democrats would want to block the bill and delay its resolution.

“Unfortunately, people think that at this time in session that playing those kinds of games is somehow helpful to get our work done. It’s just not.”

The House and Senate had a significant legislative accomplishment Wednesday when they passed a compromise measure on Real ID implementation. The effort to move Minnesota toward compliance with the federal law had been hung up for a year due to disagreements over language prohibiting unauthorized immigrants from obtaining drivers’ licenses. Negotiators finally removed that contentious section.

The legislation is needed because the federal government is due to begin enforcing tougher ID standards next year for people who board domestic flights.

Rep. Dennis Smith, R-Maple Grove, said the conference committee improved the bill.

“This bill has come back with enhanced drivers’ licenses for all locations. This bill came back with rulemaking being silent, and this bill is fiscally sound.”

Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, has been fighting against Real ID. He was at it again Wednesday with a warning about federal overreach.

“This is becoming a new chapter in American history, and quite frankly, I think we’re going to regret it.”

The bill is now headed to Dayton, who said again that he will sign it. He commended the Legislature for “working that one out.”