Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, the man in the middle as DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt try to resuscitate nearly $20 billion in planned state spending that Dayton vetoed, said that he and his fellow Senate Democrats are ready to back the governor.
"I'll be at the governor's side," Bakk, DFL-Cook, told a group of reporters Wednesday. "If there's some way I can be helpful in the process here, let me know how I can help."
Dayton and Daudt were in their second day of private negotiations Wednesday at the governor's residence, aimed at bridging differences over the level of an education spending increase in the next two years, as well as spending and policy provisions in two other budget bills that Dayton vetoed. The goal is to strike a deal, then convene a brief special legislative session to re-pass the outstanding budget bills.
"I sensed from the governor a willingness to compromise," Daudt, R-Crown, said to reporters of the previous day's meeting, on his way into the second round.
Bakk met separately with Dayton on Tuesday, and spoke by phone with Daudt in the evening. His profession of support for Dayton is notable, since the three budget bills the governor vetoed were all the result of negotiations between the DFL-led Senate and GOP-led House, with Bakk and Daudt leading those talks.
The relationship between Dayton and Bakk also suffered earlier this year after a public falling-out between the two men.
But Bakk said he and Senate Democrats were ready to pass almost anything Dayton agrees to with Daudt. He mentioned two notable exceptions: he said if Dayton agrees to pay for transportation projects out of the general fund; or if he were to accept a Republican plan to alter the state's system of teacher layoffs ("LIFO"), that Dayton would likely need to come back to Senate DFLers to build support for those provisions.
Like Dayton and Daudt, Bakk said he believes a deal can be struck quickly and that brinksmanship leading up to a possible partial state government shutdown on July 1 can be easily avoided.
"It seemed to me, talking to both of them yesterday, that they both want to resolve this sooner rather than later, which I think is a good sign," Bakk said. "I feel the same way. I don't think anything changes between now and a month from now."