Gov. Mark Dayton, looking to jump-start stalled negotiations with Republicans over a major package of public works projects and tax cuts, said on WCCO radio Wednesday that he's willing to forgo some infrastructure projects he previously said were must-haves.
After the Legislature was unable to come to a deal on a major public works package in the final hours of the legislative session that ended May 23, Dayton said he would consider calling lawmakers back to St. Paul, but only if they met his requirements. Only the governor can call the Legislature into a special session.
Dayton also vetoed tax cut legislation, citing a drafting error he said would cost the state $100 million during the next three years. Republicans want the bill fix and signed; Dayton has said he will do so when agreement is reached on the other outstanding issues.
Dayton proposed $186 million dollars in additional infrastructure projects, but Republicans that control the House have thus far balked.
The two sides are also at odds over funding for the Southwest Light Rail Transit project. House Republicans are adamantly opposed to the project.
Dayton said Thursday that his proposed projects for the state's universities are still non negotiable, but that he's now willing to split the difference with Republicans on the size of the overall bill.
"There are other parts of that bonding bill that I'm willing to give up, and again I'll give up up to half of it if necessary to achieve a compromise that we can proceed with," he said.
At the same, Republicans have come forth with new requirements of their own, including on labor mandates like required sick pay that cities are considering putting on employers. They also want tax credits for private schools. Dayton said those demands have put a new strain on the negotiations.
The negotiations have been complicated by the upcoming November election, when all 201 legislative districts will be up for election.
Charlie Weaver, executive director of the Minnesota Business Partnership who served in the Legislature and as Gov. Tim Pawlenty's chief of staff, said he remains optimistic that a deal can get done given the parties' mutual interests.
He said tough negotiations often come down to one key: "People need to save face."