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Dayton: "Here I am in the middle and they haven't moved"

Posted by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger under Funding, Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Minnesota state senators, Democrats, Republicans, State budgets Updated: May 23, 2011 - 5:31 PM

On the final day of the regular legislative session, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton continued to insist that he has moved closer to Republicans but they remain stuck.

"Here I am in the middle and they haven't moved," Dayton said of Republican lawmakers. He also said he is "extremely pessimistic" about getting the job done without overtime.

Republicans have insisted that their $34 billion budget proposal is a compromise. To prove the point, Senate Republicans even provided a YouTube video of Democratic Senate Leader Tom Bakk saying that on the campaign trail Republican promised they were going to cut spending but they broke that promise.

Dayton dismissed Republicans' claim of compromise. He said Republicans never produced a budget that would spend under $34 billion.

"They use the number but they don't tell what it is," Dayton said. "Their reality hasn't squared with their rhetoric all session....That's old campaign rhetoric. That's from last fall. Now is the time to govern." "

The governor also said a government shutdown, which would come in July, would be "catastrophic occurrence."

Still, he is no fan of Republican measures, introduced over the weekend, for "lights on" bills that would keep some of government running in the event of a shutdown. 

That's just "kind of a charade to look like they are not going to be responsible what they are responsible for," the governor said on Minnesota Public Radio.

Meanwhile, some Republicans have wondered if Dayton wants higher taxes for the rich or just more money for the state. Taxes are a non-starter, they say, but a few members are a tad more open to other revenue ideas.

Dayton said he'd look at other revenue proposals.

"If somebody has another idea of where $1.8 billion in non-tax revenue comes from I'm certainly willing to listen," Dayton said. The governor noted, his tax increase proposal on the wealthy would bring in $1.5 billion to the state's budget but if lawmakers have a $1.5 billion replacement: "I'm all ears."

Dayton said that sales taxes and so-called "sin taxes," which could be one place to look for non-income tax revenue are regressive.

"I like my proposal. I like mine just fine," Dayton said. "At this point, I think my approach is the fair one the right one for most Minnesotans."

His proposal would raise taxes on married couples earning more than $300,000 a year and single filers earning $180,00 or more.

Dayton has indicated that he would not immediately call lawmakers back for a special session.

"I don't think we'd go back at it immediately," Dayton said.

That session would likely only start when he and legislative leaders agree to a budget deal and an agenda for the session.

Asked if, lacking those conditions, he would not call lawmakers back for special session by July 1, when state government would start shutting down, Dayton said: "I haven't thought that far ahead."

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