Posted at 12:00 PM on July 12, 2011
by Paul Tosto
Gov. Mark Dayton said again he wants to negotiate a deal with Republicans to break the budget impasse and end a state government shutdown now in its second week. He said he expected to see a counter offer from Republicans soon but didn't talk publicly today about what new budget ideas he'd consider.
Dayton met with the public Tuesday morning in St. Cloud as part of a greater Minnesota tour talking budget issues. This morning was focused largely on K-12 budget issues.
Dayton heard from local school officials concerned especially about funding for special needs children.
Afterward, he spoke briefly to reporters, saying he wanted to get the budget resolved and would be willing to leave St. Paul and come to St. Cloud with Republicans to try and do a deal.
He said he' was told a GOP counter offer on the budget is nearly completed and he was waiting to see it.
Earlier in the day, Dayton and Republicans exchanged barbs over the St. Cloud meeting. Republicans claimed Dayton refused to let GOP leaders drive with him to St. Cloud. Dayton's office said, "As usual, the Republican press operation is not telling the entire story."
MPR News reporter Tim Pugmire writes:
GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said she called Dayton this morning to suggest that she and House Speaker Kurt Zellers participate in the event as well as others the governor has scheduled this week. She also suggested riding in the same car. The request didn't fly, but Koch said she thought it could have been productive.
"I thought, well, we have to keep talking, and this would be a way to engage the public. The governor is going out across the state, and it would be a way to sort of present both sides to the public. And then, I thought if we rode together, nothing more Minnesotan in the summer than a road trip. We could continue budget negotiations in the car."
Dayton's press secretary said the governor told Koch that he would prefer the GOP leaders spend their time working on a counter-proposal to the budget offers he has made. Dayton also said he would be available to meet with Republican leaders when he returned from St. Cloud.
"I don't think this is about a PR war," Dayton told reporters after the St. Cloud meeting. "It's about what's right for the people of Minnesota."
At the meeting, GOP Sen. Dave Brown said he'd agree to new revenue (one of the things Dayton has insisted on and a key stumbling block between him and the GOP) but only if the state pays back past obligations to schools. Brown said he supports the governor's desire to raise revenue by closing tax loopholes for high income earners.
But GOP Rep. Steve Gottwalt warned that the state budget was already growing too fast.
"Two years from now we will be back with a deeper budget deficit, looking for more tax revenue," he told reporters following the St. Cloud meeting. "If we do not make promises we can keep... we are making promises we can't keep with money we don't have," adding, "Minnesota's economy is not going off like a rocket ship right now."
St. Cloud GOP Rep. King Banaian added: "We do not need additional revenues in the budget. You don't have any way of knowing what the governor wants to spend this money on ... I can't decide whether to spend additional money if I'm not told where the additional money is going to go."
Dayton is expected to talk about the budget Wednesday in public meetings in southern Minnesota.