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Gov: the budget ball is in lawmakers' court; he's open on Block E casino

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans Updated: May 4, 2011 - 1:03 PM

McKenzie Martin and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

Gov. Mark Dayton said his “optimism is waning” for a timely end of session as he waits around for Legislature Republicans to finish up their budget so negotiations can move forward.

“I’m available, I’m ready, and I’m willing,” Dayton said Wednesday, but no negotiations will take place until he gets conference reports from Republicans. “The ball is in their court.”

Republicans have said they are waiting for the governor to get involved in budget negotiations but he said he already is. Dayton said Wednesday that his administrations' officials have send dozens of letters to committee chairs and made commissioners available for questions but none have been forthcoming.

While he -- and they --  wait, lawmakers have been working on other issue -- including constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, limit state spending and require voters to show photo identification. Dayton, who has no power to stop those amendments, said they are "an attempt at diversion" lawmakers are using to take attention away from their budget problem.

Dayton also said he was "open" to the new proposal for a casino at downtown Minneapolis' Block E. But he said any new gambling deal -- including the Minneapolis proposal and the racino proposal -- would have to share at least 50 percent of revenues with the state.

“The only way I would support these if I do would be if the state is going to get a fair and sizeable portion of the proceeds,” Dayton said. “We certainly ought to get at least half.”

The governor, who said he had been told by legislative leaders that the idea of putting slots in bars was likely dead this session, said he'd be willing be accept gambling revenue in the final budget deal. But he said any expansion of gambling would likely not raise enough to completely replace his income tax hike proposal.

The Democratic governor dismissed Sen. David Hann's trip to Washington Wednesday as foolishness.

“Anyone that’s going to Washington for advice on how to resolve a budget deficit is headed in the wrong direction," Dayton said.

Hanna, the chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, went to the nation's Capitol to: "do everything I can working with our congressional delegation to restore healthcare decision making to the citizens of Minnesota."

The Republican from Eden Prairie has pushed for Minnesota to get massive health care waivers from the federal government. He projects such waivers would save the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dayton has said the idea is unrealistic because the Obama administration would never agree.

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