DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders are back behind closed doors this morning for daylong negotiations aimed at avoiding a state government shutdown on July 1.
They spent about seven hours in private meetings Friday, and afterwards described the talks as productive. The top lawmakers said they would not offer any specifics on the negotiations until there was a resolution, and they stayed true to that pledge today as they entered the meeting room.
Dayton had little to say when asked for any words of wisdom.
"I'm waiting for the wisdom to eminate in the room," Dayton said. "I wouldn't want to squander any wisdom, since it's so scarce, before I get in there. I'm looking forward to a good day. We had a good day yesterday I'm very hopeful we'll have a good day today."
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, offered a similarly guarded assessment.
"We have another productive day of going through spreadsheets, comparing budget items, what we've done before," Zellers said.
Zellers said he expected the talks today to focus on environment, health and human services, higher education and taxes. He also said he remained upbeat about avoiding a shutdown.
"I've remained optimistic that we don't need a government shutdown from the very beginning, that we can get done with this. But we continue to be positive, we continue to be optimistic, we continue to work hard at this, and we'll do it again today."
In addition to Dayton and Zellers, the meeting participants are Senate GOP Majority Leader Amy Koch, Deputy Senate GOP Majority Leader Geoff Michel, House GOP Majority Leader Matt Dean, House Ways and Means chair Mary Liz Holberg, Senate DFL Minority Leader Tom Bakk, House DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen and management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter.
Definition of PROGRESS
1a (1) : a royal journey marked by pomp and pageant (2) : a state procession b : a tour or circuit made by an official (as a judge) c : an expedition, journey, or march through a region
2: a forward or onward movement (as to an objective or to a goal) : advance
3: gradual betterment; especially : the progressive development of humankind
Progress is a word we're hearing a lot today as Gov. Dayton and Republican lawmakers continue to meet behind closed doors.
"Continuing to make progress," Dayton told reporters during one of the breaks in meetings.
"It's the best progress so far," Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, told reporters after he left a meeting. Abeler chairs the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.
The only problem is it's difficult to decipher what that means. Dayton and GOP leaders are maintaining radio silence and are saying very little about the status of negotiations.
Today's discussions focused on Health and Human Services, Higher Education, the Environment and Energy and Taxes.
This is the second straight day that Dayton and lawmakers are meeting behind closed doors.
The stakes for these talks are huge. The two sides have six days to reach a budget deal. If they fail, state government will shut down. Thousands of state employees will be laid off, state amenities like parks will close and the status of many state services will be up to a Ramsey County Judge.
Dayton and Republicans are $1.8 billion apart on reaching a budget deal. Dayton is aiming to erase a $5 billion projected budget deficit through a mix of spending cuts, a K12 accounting shift and an income tax increase on Minnesota's top earners. Republicans say they can erase the budget deficit by relying on the accounting shift and spending cuts.
It appears that some lawmakers are expecting to keep working early next week. Abeler said negotiations on Health and Human Services were done for the day. He said he expected talks to resume on that budget area on Monday.
"We have a considerable road trip ahead of us," Abeler said.
He declined to discuss what were the main issues discussed in the meetings.
No word on how long talks will continue today or if the two sides intend to meet tomorrow. Meetings wrapped up today. They will meet again tomorrow at 2pm.
Gov. Dayton and GOP legislative leaders are planning to meet behind closed doors Sunday afternoon for a third straight day of budget talks. The two sides met privately for nearly eight hours on Saturday (Read a write-thru of the story here). Dayton and GOP legislative leaders are trying to break an impasse over a two year budget plan. The two sides also agreed to keep the talks private and it's unclear if they're any closer to reaching a budget deal.
"Our agreement that we would not discuss any of the details of our discussions is really crucial to our ability to build the trust necessary to really exchange candid ideas and talk things over," Dayton said. "There's a purpose for this reticence to talk about details because it's serving, in my view very constructively, the intent that we all have."
Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature must reach a budget deal by Friday or state government would shut down on that day if they fail to resolve their differences.(5 Comments)