The Democratic governor and GOP leaders entered the session’s homestretch with a mountain of differences over how to spend a $1.65 billion budget surplus, from the size of spending — Dayton pushed for $46 billion while Republicans’ plans called for nearly $45 billion — to the amount of tax relief and smaller, controversial policy changes scattered throughout the GOP bills. The two sides had been meeting for more than a week to chip away at a compromise, and Republican leaders had expressed little interest in sending Dayton their own budget bills for a sure veto.
But Republicans appeared to abandon the negotiating table late Monday night, taking steps to start sending the bills to Dayton’s desk. Several committees were scheduled Tuesday morning to give final approval to the Republican-backed budget proposals, queuing up final votes on the House and Senate floors as soon as later Tuesday.
It’s a bid to build pressure on the governor to move the GOP’s way in a final compromise. A tax committee quickly signed off on a bill with roughly $1.1 billion in tax cuts on Tuesday morning, while Dayton has proposed just $300 million in tax breaks.
“Now we’ll get the bill to the governor and hopefully he’ll sign it,” said Rep. Greg Davids, the Republican who chairs the House Tax Committee. “If he doesn’t, a lot of Minnesotans will lose.”
Dayton issued a statement expressing disappointment.
“Instead of returning to the table with their counteroffers, as we had agreed they would do – Republicans are instead choosing to double down on their original budget bills with no compromises,” he said.
Legislative leaders shed little light on their plans Monday. In that latest meeting to strike a deal, Dayton offered to slightly decrease some of his spending requests in several small areas of the state budget.
“We’re not as far along as I would like to be, but the conversations are going well and I think there’s enough time for things to come together,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt said. The two sides agreed to resume those talks Tuesday afternoon.
It’s not the first time Dayton and a GOP-controlled Legislature have clashed. Dayton and Republicans deadlocked over how to solve a $6 billion budget deficit, bringing the state to a 20-day government shutdown.