With days to go, Minn. budget talks hit a stalemate

Published 7:54 am Friday, May 19, 2017

ST. PAUL — Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders hit an impasse Thursday in their quest to set a new Minnesota budget, halting meetings to resolve their massive differences with just days left to finalize a new spending package.

The Legislature faces a May 22 deadline to finish its budget. The two sides traded budget offers throughout the week, starting to narrow a sizable gap between their proposals while expressing hope they could wrap up a deal in time.

Dayton wants a $46 billion, two-year budget while the GOP had proposed a $45 billion spending package.

Email newsletter signup

But the two sides spent Thursday outside of negotiating room and instead in the public eye, criticizing each other’s budget proposals and calling on the other side to make the next move. There were no plans to resume private talks Thursday afternoon.

“At this point, I’m halfway and they haven’t moved beyond the 5-yard line,” Dayton said on WCCO Radio Thursday morning.

Behind the bluster are two drastically different visions for the state’s next budget. For Dayton, it means expanding a prized preschool program to more schools while sending extra funding to help an overburdened court system and boost state government’s cybersecurity efforts. But Republicans have put a premium on tax cuts and transportation funding, making cuts to health care and government agency spending to pay for more than $800 million in tax breaks on property taxes, college tuition debt, estate taxes and more.

Republicans balked at Dayton’s suggestion that he moved halfway in the budget talks. With less than five days in session remaining, House Speaker Kurt Daudt said it was up to Dayton to make the next offer, suggesting that the GOP-controlled House and Senate would soon reach a breaking point at which it would break away and start assembling a budget with hopes the Democratic governor would sign it.

“We’re moving and he’s moving, but it’s slow steps. We need to make some big progress today or it’s going to become difficult to get things done,” Daudt said.

If they can’t strike a deal in time, the state wouldn’t immediately plunge into a state government shutdown. The Legislature would have until June 30 to finish a budget in a special session.