For 15 minutes Thursday afternoon, Gov. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch discussed the budget deal that is likely to end the two-week state government shutdown within a few days. All three were somber and downbeat -- but managed to shake hands at the end of the session. Here's an edited transcript of the session.
Dayton: It is my understanding we have an agreement.
We’re committed to working together over the next few hours and couple days to get this nailed down so we’re ready to go to a special session as soon as possible.
Koch: We have a framework agreement is I guess the best way to look at it… The next couple days will be very busy trying to expedite and move those details.
Zellers: Looking for the quickest possible time in the realm of processing bills, getting chairs and commissioners [together] and getting the work done.
It’s not a perfect scenario , but we are in an imperfect situation here. As the governor says, there are things we don’t agree with here, but it gets the budget balanced and ends the shutdown.
Dayton: Well, it certainly doesn’t put us in a better situation, but the real solution for Minnesota and the nation is for the state and national economy to improve and put more people to work and therefore paying taxes. If I had a crystal ball that could predict where we would be two years from now, I’d be down on Wall Street trying to repair my fortune.
Zellers: I believe there are.[enough Republican votes in the House to pass] …We would not be uncomfortably offering up the solution if we did not have at least a good working relationship with our caucuses on what the solution would be.
Koch: I think that, as always, they have to hammer out the final details of these bills. But we believe the caucus will ultimately support this. Obviously for them it’s not going to be something that is – they’re going to be concerned about the spending, about the reform piece…make sure to follow up in ensuing years that we get control over that spending
Dayton: My priority is to get Minnesota back to work and doing so in a way that protects what I think are the critical services. And this accomplishes that. We’re going to be around, I’ll be around all weekend…I expect to be here all weekend and expect to do everything around the clock because of the urgency of getting the lights back on.
Dayton: Given the reality of the circumstances, I said from the outset there’s no good or easy way to resolve a $5 billion deficit, which we all inherited from our predecessors. ….I’ve been true to my word as this has evolved by saying I’m willing to compromise and I appreciate the [willingness] of the two leaders to do the same. No one’s going to be happy with this, which is the essence of a real compromise.
You’re talking about a very short period of time to get this done and the pressure of getting it done so we have a resolution that can turn all of the lights on all over Minnesota.
Zellers: We didn’t believe we should spend this amount of money and the governor did. We’re spending more than we wanted to, which is again, not the thing we wanted to do. But at the end of the day, yes, we had to compromise, we had to come together, not on behalf of the three of us, what it looks like in our books or biographies. That was not what this was about. It was about making sure we could get a deal that we all can be disappointed in but it’s a deal that is done, a budget that is balanced, a state that will be back to work. Yeah, I don’t know that we’re all happy at all. None of us got exactly all of what we wanted.
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