Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton are meeting at the governor's residence this afternoon to continue budget negotiations even as recriminations fly, with each side accusing the other of refusing to negotiate in good faith.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said negotiations for a two-year budget deal with House Republicans are stalled because Republicans are insisting on ending MinnesotaCare, a public health insurance program that provides coverage of some 90,000 people.
"That's a nonstarter," Bakk said.
Bakk was responding to sharp words from House Republicans this morning, who said Bakk and Dayton are stalling and insisting on a gas tax proposal that would receive zero votes from the House Republican caucus.
Bakk said he's willing to forgo a gas tax dedicated to transportation, which he said is his top priority, but only if House Republicans drop their tax cut bill.
Today, legislative leaders and Dayton are scheduled to discuss education and higher education, which together comprise roughly 50 percent of the state budget.
The Legislature is set to adjourn the night of May 18
The two parties are arguing about how to spend the state's projected $1.9 billion surplus. Republicans want to give $2 billion in tax cuts to Social Security recipients, military pensioners, businesses that own property and other taxpayers, while also moving money from the general fund to road and bridge construction.
Dayton and the Democrats want to increase spending on the school funding formula 2 percent each year during the biennium, which is more than the 1 percent annual increase Dayton proposed in his budget. Bakk said he understands Dayton is willing to scale back his centerpiece plan for universal prekindergarten to pay for the new k12 spending.
Republicans say DFL leaders are stalling.
Bakk said he'd seen seeing polling data that would place blame for a shutdown on Republicans, but said it's not his intention.
"It's not good for the institution, and I would certainly rather that it not happen. There's no reason this can't get done," he said.