By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) — Top Minnesota veterans officials say the state may be forced to close veterans’ homes if Republican budget cuts are enacted. That claim has GOP leaders up in arms.

On Friday, veterans packed the Minnesota Capitol hearing room.

The Dayton administration says Republican cuts could indeed force the closing of veteran’s homes, if the GOP budget includes proposals to cut the state workforce.

Larry Shellito, the retired National Guard general, is standing by his comments.

“So, when we talk about cuts — regardless of what they are — the homes are going to be affected,” said Shellito, who is also the Veterans Affairs Commissioner. “Homes will have to be looked at very, very seriously.”

It is a charge that Republican lawmakers categorically deny. In fact, they say they are increasing funding.

“It’s time that this administration quit using these veterans as a political pawn,” said Sen. Mike Perry (R-Waseca). “I don’t think I have to say anymore. Stop it.”

This is just part of the tension developing as the legislature enters its final two weeks.

Gov. Mark Dayton is demanding Republicans to send him a budget. Republicans are saying the Dayton won’t negotiate.