House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, expressed confidence today that legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton will be able to come to an agreement on a two-year budget before the May 18 adjournment date.

Daudt and Dayton will meet Thursday and will celebrate the opening of fishing season this weekend with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. "I could certainly have it wrapped up this afternoon. I've said that every day now for a week," said Daudt, the first-term speaker. 

Daudt said he recognized the realities of divided government but needs some movement from Dayton and Bakk. 

"Somewhere in the middle, at least. If we're not in the middle, we're probably going to be here past the end of session," he said. Daudt then noted that the middle of the House' s $2 billion tax cut plan and the Senate's $460 million tax bill bill would be between $1.2 and $1.3 billion. The parties are also far apart on spending and a number of policy issues related to environmental regulation and other matters. 

Dayton replied that a $1 billion tax cut means that money "won't be available for things, some of which I think are vitally important. Ask people in Minnesota, do you want $250 for your family, $20 per month for two years, or do you want safe, clean drinking water? I think most people would opt for the latter."

Dayton said the odds of the Legislature finishing by the May 18 adjournment date are 50-50. 

"I'm concerned because of the distance we're apart," Dayton said, "and wondering whether there is the will is there to get it resolved."  

On one matter, Daudt and Dayton are in agreement. Both said the deadline is a good idea because it forces the Legislature to get its work done, in contrast to the United States Congress.