Gov. Mark Dayton and Republicans who control the state Legislature have a framework for a budget agreement and say the state government shutdown will end “within days.”
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and the governor addressed the press together around 5:00 p.m. on Thursday after more than three hours of discussion. All three appeared somber as they spoke about an agreement they called disappointing for everyone.
“It’s not a perfect scenario, but we are in an imperfect situation here,” Zellers told reporters assembled outside the governor’s office. “It’s a deal we all can be disappointed in, but a deal that’s done.”
The deal is based off an offer GOP leaders presented to Dayton on the eve of the shutdown, which the governor re-presented to them – with added conditions – on Thursday, about two weeks into a historic state government shutdown.
That offer includes a $700 million expansion of the state’s K-12 aid shift (which currently stands at $1.9 billion) and another $700 million acquired by issuing bonds to borrow against future tobacco settlement proceeds to close the remaining $1.4 billion gap between the two parties. The proposal also attaches three new conditions from the governor: pass a $500 million bonding bill and remove a 15 percent state workforce cut and all social issues from their budget bills.
All of these details are fluid and subject to change as leaders bring in committee chairs, start crafting the bills and begin counting votes in their caucuses. Dayton said he hopes the policy measures would be taken out, and said a bonding bill is not necessarily an “ultimate requirement” to the final agreement.
Both Koch and Zellers said they “believe” they have the votes in their caucus to support a budget based off this framework, but Koch added that they need to “hammer out the details” before they can be sure.
That process will likely take several days, Dayton said, as the bills need to be drafted and go through the revisor’s office. The governor said he will not call a special session for a lights-on bill in the meantime, but will “turn all the lights on” when they pass these budget bills “within days.” Leaders and the governor will be working tomorrow and all weekend, Dayton said.
DFL Reps. Mindy Greiling and Ryan Winkler both released statements expressing disappointment in the deal. Greiling called the proposed school shift an “egregious” example of misplaced priorities, pinning the blame on Republicans, while Winkler said the combination of using the school dollars and the tobacco bonds makes for the “most irresponsible budget in our state’s history.”
“We have never borrowed money against future revenue to fund current operations in the history of the state. When [Gov. Tim] Pawlenty proposed this scheme, nearly every legislator voted against it,” Winkler wrote. “In addition, borrowing nearly half of the annual school funding from school districts will cause chaos for our schools and mortgage our children’s future.”
“No one is going to be happy with this,” Dayton said, “which is the essence of real compromise.”
After the press conference, Senate DFL staffer Tom Kukielka sent an email to the caucus, asking them to be ready for a special session.
“As I’m sure you are aware the governor has come to a budget agreement with Republican Legislators. We expect the special session could be as soon as Monday or Tuesday next week the 18th and 19th of July,” he wrote. “The principals will be drafting the legislation this week, Sen. [Tom] Bakk would appreciate if our members were available for consultation this weekend in your fields of expertise. We are not asking you all be at the Capitol over the weekend, only available for consultation, either here or via phone to address questions or concerns which may arise.”