A day after a modest bit of progress was made toward solving the state's budget stalemate, it was obvious Tuesday that the gulf between Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton is nowhere close to being bridged.
During a sometimes testy three-hour meeting of a legislative budget commission, Republican members repeated their longstanding talking points, slamming Dayton's plan to close Minnesota's $5 billion budget gap with a combination of income tax increases and spending cuts.
In the process, they lambasted Dayton's finance and revenue commissioners as the men laid out specifics of the governor's plan. They also made it clear they were still irked that Dayton had ordered the two not to appear last week at a previous commission meeting.
"If you were non-partisan you would have been here" at last week's meeting Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassan, told Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans, after he said he was presenting data in a non-partisan manner.
But other Republicans complained that Frans and Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter were merely carrying rhetorical water for their boss instead of laying out the numbers in an objective way. Their slide show characterized Dayton's plan as increasing taxes "fairly and responsibly."
"Those are value terms that don't sound non-partisan to me," said Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina. "They very clearly display a value judgment," which he characterized as "biased.""We provide information fairly," Schowalter said.
"We're all trying to the same thing -- what's fair and right for Minnesota," Frans said.
"Their job is to pitch the governor's budget," said Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington. "This is their job -- they're speaking for the governor."
Republicans also revived their criticism that Dayton hasn't yet detailed what specific budget cuts he would make to eliminate $1.8 billion of the deficit. "You don't want to tell us where the cuts are going to be," said Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca. "You didn't want to work with us....we're supposed to read the governor's mind."
Schowalter said Dayton "has been pretty clear. He's trying to find some commonality" with the Republican-led Legislature. Dayton's commissioners said the governor provided a complete plan when the budget deficit was more than $6 billion and is hoping to compromise with the GOP.
Commission members covered no appreciable new ground. They plan to meet again Thursday.
On Monday, Republicans proposed increasing spending on schools, courts and public safety by $110 million, which is closer to the amount Dayton wants to spend. A day later, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove called that a "good-faith effort," which Dayton previously said was a "meaningful offer." Although the Republican upbraided Dayton's appointees for lacking detail in their presentation, they have provided no details about what areas of the budget they would cut to find the $110 million.
But on Tuesday, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the Republican offer wasn't "substantive" because it "doesn't contain new revenue. It doesn't move the ball down the field very far."
Dayton and the Republican leadership team are scheduled to meet again Wednesday.