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Dayton seeks meeting with GOP leaders; Aim is to talk over post-session differences

By Erin Golden

Minneapolis Star Tribune

St. Paul — Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday formally invited legislative leaders to meet with him to sort out the policy and budget differences that prompted the governor to withhold the Legislature’s funding and Republican lawmakers to threaten a lawsuit.

Speaking at Rochester City Hall Tuesday morning, the DFL governor said he’s optimistic the leaders will be able to avoid a constitutional crisis with some time in meeting rooms, rather than in the courtroom. Dayton said one of two key GOP leaders, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, had already reached out and expressed interest in meeting — even before the governor sent out a letter formally suggesting a meeting early Tuesday.

Dayton said he remains convinced that he and lawmakers need to re-open talks on several key issues included in budget bills the Legislature passed last month, , including teacher licensing standards and driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants — and on a $650 million tax-cut bill he says will be “catastrophic” to Minnesota, costing the state treasury more than $5 billion in revenue over the next several years.

“It could threaten to push Minnesota’s budget surpluses over the cliff into chronic deficits,” he said.

Gazelka and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, have said they are preparing to sue Dayton, who vetoed funding for the Legislature as an attempt to get Republicans to discuss the tax bill and the other issues. GOP leaders have said the Legislature will run out of its reserve funding by later this summer.

Dayton said he’s sympathetic to the concerns of the hundreds of legislative employees worried that the money that pays their salaries is set to disappear. But he said he has not considered rescinding his veto as the dispute drags on.

“I haven’t looked into that as an option,” he said.