Parties heat up rhetoric over looming government shutdownby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — With 10 days left before a potential Minnesota state government shutdown, Republican legislative leaders today are calling on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to resume negotiations and make a new budget offer.
GOP leaders also urged Dayton to call a special session, even though the two sides remain deeply divided on key issues.
The Republican leaders haven't changed their budget bottom line, or their opposition to tax increases, but they've come up with a new message. They say they're the ones who have compromised, and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has not.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said it's been 90 days since Dayton last presented a substantial, budget proposal. During the same period, Koch said the GOP has compromised three times.
"The Republicans have been working every day trying to find ways to resolve this budget, and the governor now needs to step up as the leader of the state and come to the table with a substantive compromise offer," said Koch. "He needs to let the people of Minnesota know where he wants to spend money, and if he has reductions, where he would reduce."
Koch and other GOP leaders argue that Dayton's most recent offer, which reduced his proposed tax increase on top earners by half, did not include sufficient details about spending.
Republicans have tried to match Dayton in several key spending areas, including K-12 education. But while they've moved some money around, their overall spending limit for the biennium remains at $34 billion.
Dayton last week said the lack of movement was "extremely disappointing." He's also said he won't call a special session until there's agreement on a complete budget.
Still, House Speaker Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove said he thinks legislators should return now and start passing some of the budget bills.
"Bring us back. Let's pass the things that we agree on. Keep those functions going, keep them running, keep them up and operating," said Zellers. "Then we can discuss, we can negotiate, we can go back and forth on what's left."
Dayton wasn't talking to reporters, but his spokeswoman issued a written statement in response to the GOP news conference. Dayton's press secretary Katharine Tinucci wrote that Republicans' unwillingness to move in budget negotiations is "a source of increasing frustration." She described their new scorecard on compromises as "completely out of touch with reality."
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL- Minneapolis said he too thought that Dayton, not Republicans, had given the most ground so far on the budget. But Thissen said he thinks GOP legislators are starting to feel some heat back home and could be ready to deal.
"Poll after poll has shown that the majority of Minnesotans want a result that's balanced. And the Republicans, at their $34 billion number, have not compromised and they're not proposing a balanced solution," said Thissen. "People are are going to listen to their constituents, because that's what they're elected to do, to represent their constituents, and we're going to get a result that is fair for the people of Minnesota."
Meanwhile, four Republican state senators asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to prevent a lower court from authorizing any state spending during a state government shutdown. The lawmakers and their attorney, Erick Kardaal, claim a court order to keep some essential state services funded and operating would would violate the constitutional separation of powers.
"The Legislature has tools to perennially fund these programs, and then the Constitution can be amended to perennially fund these programs. But that hasn't happened in this case," he said.
In another court filing, Gov. Dayton supported a judicial branch position that the court system should be funded in the event of a government shutdown.
Dayton also announced that he'll make a supplemental court filing to include payments to health care providers in the list of critical services that he thinks should continue during a shutdown. He'll also ask the court to allow newly eligible individuals to enroll in health and economic assistance programs.
A hearing on the shutdown is scheduled Thursday in Ramsey County District Court.
- All Things Considered, 06/20/2011, 5:16 p.m.