House Republican leadership expressed anger and bafflement at Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate DFL leadership for not meeting late Monday or Tuesday morning even as the clock ticks down on the legislative session without a two-year budget deal.
"It's unbelievable. Six days left of session, that we've been on break since last night....It seems to be a pattern. It's not acceptable," said Majority Leader Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers.
The two sides met until dinner Monday, but DFL promises to work until midnight and early this morning were unmet, Republican leaders say.
A spokesman for Dayton said the governor's office made clear commissioners and staff are available to talk this morning. A 1 p.m. negotiating session is scheduled at the governor's residence.
They are far apart on a budget deal, with Republicans wanting to use the $1.9 billion projected budget surplus on tax cuts and transportation funding, while Democrats would use the money for education, while also proposing a gas tax to fund road and bridge construction. Dayton and Senate DFL want to add 2 percent in each year of the biennium to the school funding formula, which is double what Dayton had in his original budget. Daudt said Dayton has not explained how he would pay for it.
The meetings thus far have been mostly fruitless, Daudt said.
"Even when we are meeting, I literally know more about Dick Cohen's life than I ever thought that I would," said House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, referring to the St. Paul DFL senator who is chairman of Senate Finance Committee. The library Cohen is building himself has come under discussion more than once, Daudt said.
A spokesman for Dayton said Republicans are not acting in good faith either: "Negotiating means that we're all using real numbers to negotiate off of," said Linden Zakula, referring to what he characterized as phony savings from a House GOP plan to cut waste in health and human services.
Republicans say the biggest hangup seems to be the wholesale gas tax proposal, for which they say there is not a single GOP vote in the House.
Government shutdowns historically have been bad for Republicans, both at the federal and state level. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn the night of May 18.
Daudt said he would be surprised if DFL leaders threatened a shutdown over the gas tax: "I gotta tell you, if they wanna shut the government down over a gas tax ... I mean, they're just Kamikazes. If they think they're gonna come out of that? Two-thirds of Minnesotans are against the gas tax. They're welcome to it," said Daudt, referring to public polls showing widespread public skepticism over a gas tax hike.