Gov. Mark Dayton has issued a warning to Republican lawmakers finalizing their budget proposals, telling them he'll oppose any plan that includes across-the-board cuts to state agencies or attaches non-budget-related items.
In a letter delivered Monday to House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, the DFL governor said he expects the Republican-majority Legislature will forward budget plans that differ from his own priorities. GOP lawmakers have not yet released their plans in detail, but Dayton said he has heard that the Republicans' budgets will "take a very adversarial approach."
The governor emphasized his point in bold text, telling Daudt and Gazelka that if they propose spending cuts, he would not accept an "arbitrary 10 percent, across-the-board reduction."
"I insist that any budget reductions you propose explain clearly the programs and services that you wish to cut," he wrote. "In other words, state specifically what you want state government NOT to do."
Dayton's $45.8 billion budget plan includes expanded funding for schools, prekindergarten programs and public universities, among other priorities. Much of that spending is funded by the state's projected $1.65 billion surplus expected for the next two-year budget cycle. The governor is expected to release an updated proposal this week, tweaked following a recent budget forecast.
Republican lawmakers have expressed interest in returning some of the state's surplus to residents in the form of tax cuts or credits. They've also said they intend to spend money on schools and transportation projects, like roads and bridges.
The governor also told GOP leaders that he is "strongly" opposed to unrelated items tucked into budgets. A number of bills moving through the Legislature are likely to earn Dayton's veto if they reach his desk as standalone bills, including a "preemption" bill that would block cities from passing their own minimum wage or paid leave ordinances.
"I am willing to debate policy proposals with you on their own merits, but I will not trade controversial policy items for spending necessary to provide critical services for the people of Minnesota," Dayton wrote. "If you insert those policy provisions into budget bills in an attempt to force me to accept them, you will create the same impasse, which caused the state government shutdown in 2011."
The governor added that the 2011 shutdown was ended in part by an agreement to take policy measures out of budget bills.