In one of the most frank discussions Thursday of what may be occurring at the State Capitol, one Republican legislator said that Republicans and DFL negotiators had agreed on a basic framework for a overall budget deal.
Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Reform Committee, said that after talks Wedneday night regarding the state's health and human services budget a top Dayton negotiator had “reached across the table [Wednesday] night and said this is the framework for a deal.”
“We’re there to the point where if Gov. Dayton simply said to his commissioners, ‘Get it done’, we could sit down and button things up in a matter of hours – all bills,” said Gottwalt, who spoke with just hours before a possible state government shutdown.
However Gottwalt, a three-term Republican, said he did not know whether there was agreement on an overall state budget dollar amount – perhaps the biggest sticking point between Dayton and the Republican legislative leaders. “As far as a global target, I don’t know,” he said.
But Gottwalt said the negotiators were close to an agreement on the state’s health and human services budget, the biggest part of the state budget. “We’re not apart like we were on dollars,” said Gottwalt. “We are not apart anymore.”
The Republican legislator said the budget framework included new state revenue, but declined to say whether the amount was what Dayton was wanting. At one point, as Gottwalt talked to reporters in a hallway, a Republican aide advised the legislator and reporters about honoring an agreement between DFLers and Republicans not to release details of their private meetings.
“We all shook hands,” said Gottwalt, describing the Wednesday negotiating session with DFLers.   But Gottwalt added that Dayton appeared Thursday to have pulled back his negotiators, leaving Republicans to await the signal for more meetings.
Sizing up where things stand, Gottwalt added: “Folks, what more do you need?”