ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP leaders have reached an agreement to end the two-week-long government shutdown, hours after the governor agreed to accept the republican’s budget offer.
Dayton said Thursday that he wants to end the government shutdown for the good of the state.
“During the past two weeks, I have been listening to the people throughout Minnesota. They are telling me that, overwhelmingly, they want this budget dispute resolved,” Dayton stated in a letter to GOP leaders.
The two sides met in Dayton’s office at 2 p.m. The deal was announced just after 5 p.m. The offer still needs legislative approval. Dayton said he is prepared to call a special session within the next three days.
Dayton said he would accept the republican budget offer, which was presented on June 30, with three conditions — that all social policy language be removed, that they pass a $500 million construction projects bill and that all language regarding union’s collective bargaining rights also be removed.
Dayton also wanted to see the GOP drop a plan to reduce the state workforce by 15 percent.
“We must concentrate our efforts on reaching the budget agreements that will return Minnesota to work, not on continuing disagreements over issues on which we do not agree,” Dayton stated in the letter.
Both sides agreed on a proposal to raise $1.4 billion in new revenue, half by delaying state aid checks to schools districts and the other half by selling tobacco payment bonds.
Dayton said he describes the current harsh Minnesota political climate as a “civil war.”
He had long proposed to raise top-tier income taxes — the richest 2 percent, or the richest 0.3 percent of all Minnesota taxpayers — but has since dropped his proposal, stating that anything that continues a government shutdown would be far more damaging.
A statewide government shutdown began July 1, marking the longest state shutdown in Minnesota’s history — and the longest state shutdown in the nation in the past decade. The shutdown put 22,000 state employees out of work, stalled 100 road construction projects, barricaded state parks and halted numerous government-run services and programs.
The shutdown also closed historical sites and rest stops, shut down the state lottery, made it difficult for residents to get a driver’s license and halted the issuance of hunting and fishing licenses.
Dayton’s agreement comes one day after Miller, Coors and other popular beers faced a possible threat of disappearing from Minnesota liquor stores and bars, due to the government shutdown. The brewing giant MillerCoors lacked proper licensing to sell its products that expired last month and wouldn’t have been able to renew until state employees were reinstated.