By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter
Republican legislative leaders left the Governor’s Office late Thursday afternoon, calling for Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton to call a special legislative session for tonight.
“We can pass a lights on bill,” said Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, speaking about seven hours prior to midnight and the beginning of a state government shutdown.
Both Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, heralded a lights on approach.
“It’s time to call us back,” said Zellers. He indicated some 50 House Republicans were on hand for a special session.
Koch insisted Republicans and the governor are “very close” on reaching an overall budget agreement — the lack of one has state government teetering on the brink of shutdown.
“Yes, I believe we could,” Koch said of reaching an overall global budget agreement tonight. “It would be a framework, certainly.”
“We ask the governor please don’t shut us down for a tax increase,” Koch said.
But Dayton has repeatedly stated for weeks that he would not call the Legislature into special session — something only a governor can do — until an overall budget agreement is reached.
Democratic minority leaders indicated they supported the governor’s stance on having a global budget deal or no special session.
The people of Minnesota want a big deal done, said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
Democrats, too, indicated that they believed the negotiating parties were close to reaching an overall budget agreement.
“I do think the opportunity for a global agreement tonight to prevent a shutdown can be reached,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
One sticking point in budget negotiations has been spending levels.
While Republicans do not want to spend more than $34 billion in the upcoming two-year budget cycle, Dayton wants to spend more.
The governor has also proposed an income tax increase on wealthier Minnesotans to pay for the additional spending.
Republicans would not answer a question on whether they offered to spend beyond their $34 billion target, invoking a self-imposed cone of silence which lawmakers and the governor have tried to maintain over their closed-door budget talks.