ST. PAUL (WCCO) — As Minnesota edges closer to a government shutdown, there’s still no progress at the Capitol to fixing the budget. In fact, judging from the rhetoric on Wednesday, it might have gone backwards.
A visibly fired-up Gov. Mark Dayton called the meeting a “political stunt” by Republican lawmakers and said flat out that his commissioners should not attend the meeting.
“(The) commission was setup a few days ago with 13 Republican members and five DFL members,” said Dayton. “I don’t understand why this kind of political stunt was attempted at this stage of the process.”
The meeting was scheduled for 2 p.m., but Dayton never received notification and now won’t allow his budget and tax advisers — including Jim Schowalter and Myron Frans — to go in front of a Republican-led panel and get grilled.
“We’re not going to resolve any of these differences that still exists in a public hearing that has 13 Republicans and five DFLers,” Dayton said. “They’re just going to berate a couple of my commissioners because they won’t do what I said I won’t do for the several weeks.”
The no-show angered GOP leaders who say they passed a balanced budget, without raising taxes.
“Our budget priorities were passed. Whether or not the governor liked them does not mean that we did not do our job,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers. “We fulfilled our obligation. Our obligation was to pass a balanced budget and present it to the governor.”
Now, Dayton’s proposing they bring in a federal mediator to help the two sides negotiate, even suggesting the two sides bring in two mediators.
“I don’t see anything new. I just see a repetition of the political grandstanding and the continued political theater,” Dayton said.
Dayton says as long as Republicans remain unwilling to budge on tax increases, he doesn’t see how they’ll make any progress.
“I won’t negotiate with myself against my own budget. I won’t negotiate on spending reductions until they’re willing to negotiate on revenue increases. I’ve made that perfectly clear over a month now,” said Dayton. “They may not like the answers but that’s my answer. I don’t know what it is about plain English that they have such a hard time understanding.”
Frustrated Republicans say they can’t negotiate with Dayton because they don’t know what he wants. But if what he wants includes tax hikes in a fragile economy, even a neutral mediator won’t help.
“State government is spending too much and is forecast to spend even more,” said Sen. Amy Koch. “And Minnesota families and Minnesota employers don’t have the money to give.”
In the meantime, Dayton’s been preparing for a government shutdown, which he says he’ll do whatever he can to keep from happening.
Republican lawmakers say they are very disappointed that the commissioners did not show up for the 2 p.m. meeting Thursday. They scheduled another meeting for next week, giving them another opportunity to testify. They also brought up the idea of a possible subpoena.