Dayton calls GOP budget offer 'extremely disappointing'by Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Republicans in the Minnesota House and Senate are offering to drop their proposal to cut taxes if Gov. Mark Dayton drops his proposal to raise them.
GOP legislative leaders presented Dayton with a budget offer Thursday that cancels the $200 million in tax cuts in their plan and directs the money to funding for schools, public safety, the environment and other programs.
With a potential state government shutdown just two weeks away, The leaders described it as a comprehensive offer" to resolve the impasse over a new state budget.
Dayton said shortly afterward that the proposal was "extremely disappointing."
Republicans backed off their proposal to cut taxes, which mostly benefited businesses and veterans. They instead moved that $202 million into other spending categories. They would put $80 million into K-12 education, $50 million into higher education and $30 million into public safety.
House Majority Leader Kurt Zellers said he thinks the latest GOP offer represents a major compromise.
"By withdrawing our request for tax relief, that is significant. That is probably the biggest move from our standpoint in these budget negotiations," said Zellers.
Much like an earlier proposal, Republicans tried to address specific areas that Gov. Dayton has said are among his spending priorities. But GOP leaders have not moved on either of the main sticking points that are at the root of the budget stalemate. They still reject Dayton's income tax increase on the top 2 percent of earners. They're also sticking to $34 billion in total spending for the next two years.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said the Republican proposal would be a far better choice than a government shutdown.
"We want to keep Minnesota employees working. We want to make sure that the nursing homes get paid. We want to make sure the parks stay open for Minnesotans," said Koch. "That's what's important to us. That's what this budget offer does, and that's how we offer it."
Koch said she hoped to hear back from the governor by Monday, which is the day the offer would expire. But shortly after their meeting, Dayton described the GOP proposal as a "non-offer," and a "disappointing moment" for him personally. The governor said he was expecting Republicans to make some movement from their $34 billion spending limit.
"They've modified some of the pieces within that, which is basically rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," said Dayton. "There is no improvement in terms of the overall budget that they're proposing. Once again, their position is implicitly that I have to agree entirely to them."
Dayton continued his Titanic analogy by comparing the looming government shutdown with an iceberg, and that Republicans refuse to change course. The DFL governor said he still prefers his proposal to raise $1.8 billion through an income tax increase, but he suggested he might consider other revenue options, including an expansion of gambling.
But Dayton said Republicans have to make that alternative proposal, and they must be willing to negotiate.
"I've offered to swap paper with them. I've offered to match them dollar for dollar. I've offered a mediator. I've offered everything I can think of to say let's meet in a responsible, balanced, fair middle ground," said Dayton. "And every time I just get back, '$34 billion, $34 billion, show us all your numbers but we're not going to change any of ours.' I'm not going to start negotiating with people who won't negotiate with me."
Dayton said he isn't sure what his next step will be to try to end the budget stalemate. But he said he didn't plan to meet the Republicans' Monday deadline for a counteroffer.
A hearing on a shutdown petition to declare some parts of government essential is scheduled for next Thursday in a Ramsey County courtroom.
- All Things Considered, 06/16/2011, 5:20 p.m.