Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that he and GOP leaders must make serious breakthroughs in their budget talks on Wednesday in order to avert a government shutdown.
The governor and Republican legislative leaders met twice on Tuesday, both meetings extending a little more than an hour, but would not publicly detail their negotiations behind closed doors. However Dayton, joined by House and Senate Minority Leaders Paul Thissen and Tom Bakk, said they need to make some “final breakthroughs” in order to prevent a government shutdown at midnight on Thursday, the deadline for a deal to close the $5 billion budget deficit.
“We recognize time is growing short,” Dayton said. “Tomorrow is the day we’re going to have to make final breakthroughs or we won’t have been successful.”
Bakk said that even in the event of a late-breaking deal, there would be “mechanical” difficulties in processing all of the budget bills by midnight on Thursday. The most likely scenario, Bakk said, would involve calling the Legislature back to pass a “lights on” bill so there is time to process the budget in the following days. But Dayton reiterated that he will not call a special session until there is a global agreement on the budget.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said leadership has been in regular contact with GOP members, and has instructed them to be “standing at the ready” for the moment when an agreement is reached. Koch said they have made some good progress in the last few days, but it remains unclear whether there is any progress on the critical question of revenue, which has remained the sticking point between the two sides.
Dayton skipped a lunch speaking event Tuesday afternoon to work out the budget details, with Chief of Staff Tina Smith speaking in his place. GOP Health and Human Services Chair Jim Abeler, Senate HHS head David Hann and Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson met today to work on details of the HHS budget bill, one of the largest budget sectors and major areas of ongoing contention. Leadership gave no details of the progress of that bill.
The governor and leaders have agreed to meet again tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. in the governor’s reception room, but said they plan to work internally until then. Leadership and the governor left the Capitol after the meetings to attend a memorial service for former DFL Sen. Linda Scheid, who recently died of cancer. Dayton said he has yet to think about calling a special election for her seat, as he has been preoccupied with the budget.