Legislature moves slowly to the end; special session coming
ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton says he is pessimistic of any real movement toward a budget deal today, the final day of the 2011 regular legislative session, and Republicans in control of the Legislature could point to no progress.
Nine budget and tax bills sit on Dayton's desk for signatures or vetoes, and all indications are it will be the latter.
"Where there is a will, there's a way," Dayton said, "but there has to be some willingness."
Dayton said Republicans refuse to come off their $34 billion two-year budget target. He said he is willing to accept some revenue other than raising income taxes $1.8 billion on the richest Minnesotans, but Republicans have not shown they are ready to discuss more money.
Republicans say $34 billion is the most the state needs to spend, and taxes should not be raised.
Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, met with Dayton for a couple of hours at mid day, and said the governor "is in a position to close a deal."
Michel, like other Republicans who have been in the governor's office the past few days, said the meeting was cordial, but could report no specific progress.
Michel refused to discuss a special session or attempts by some lawmakers to pass a bill allowing the state to continue operating past July 1 without a budget.
"We are around here until midnight," Michele said.
If, as expected, lawmakers and Dayton do not agree on a budget by midnight, they would be forced to return in a special session to pass a budget. Dayton will decide when that occurs.
If there is no budget deal by July 1, when the current budget expires, much of state government would begin shutting down.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.