Call a special session now, Gov. Dayton, Republican leaders insist

By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, and other Republican leaders emerged from a late afternoon meeting with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton today, urging the governor to call a special legislative session for tonight. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

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.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, indicated he believes achieving an overall budget agreement is doable yet tonight. Standing next to Bakk, in the background, is House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

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.

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