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Several rank and file Republicans open door for more revenue

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Gov. Dayton in Rochester
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton listens to members of the public explain how state budget cuts would affect them at a roundtable discussion Wednesday July 13, 2011 at the Rochester, Minn. Senior Citizen Center.
AP Photo/Rochester Post-Bulletin, Jerry Olson

While GOP leaders are resisting Gov. Mark Dayton's calls for new revenue, several rank and file members are starting to say more money is needed to end the shutdown.  

Dayton, a DFLer, and GOP legislative leaders have spent a lot of time talking about each other this week. But they haven't spent any time talking to each other. The last time they met face to face with each other was last Thursday. 

Since then, Republicans have repeatedly urged Dayton to call a special session to pass a stop-gap budget bill, but have not offered any new budget proposals to the governor. 

Dayton will speak at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey Institute Thursday, as the Minnesota state government shutdown enters its 14th day. It's the third straight day Dayton  makes a public appearance to try to garner support for his budget plan. Dayton spent the last two days in St. Cloud, Rochester and Albert Lea.

DAYTON WAITING ON GOP

The governor says he's frustrated that he hasn't seen any offers from GOP leadership.

"It's been 13 days of the shutdown, and I have not received a single new proposal from the Republican leaders," said Dayton. "It takes two sides to negotiate and I'm ready and willing anytime."

Dayton's efforts don't seem to be moving GOP leaders towards a budget deal. They have repeatedly said they will not support new revenue, like Dayton's proposed income tax hike on top earners, to erase the state's projected $5 billion budget deficit. But several rank and file lawmakers and committee chairs are starting to hear from the public.

Four Republican legislators joined horse trainers, jockeys and other employees of the Canterbury Park Horse Track for a rally on Wednesday. The shutdown has closed the track and put more than 1,000 workers on temporary leave. 

Some people in the audience held signs saying "Quit horsing around, I want to work." Another held a sign saying "Save our Future." The rally was meant to highlight the impact of the shutdown and the need for the track to reopen. 

Jeff Hillier, a horse breeder, told the audience members they need to ramp up pressure on Dayton and lawmakers to end the shutdown. 

"We, as a state, are responsible. Everyone in this place that's a Minnesota citizen, as far as I'm concerned, is responsible," said Hillier. "We're letting our government get away with this. We can't do it anymore."

SOME IN GOP OPEN TO NEW REVENUE

The four Republican lawmakers at the rally may be hearing that message. They told the audience they were trying to get a deal done. GOP Sen. Claire Robling, who chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, said something that is not on her party's list of talking points.

"I think we're going to have to come up with new revenue." 

Robling said she thinks lawmakers will need to find revenue from expanded gambling and other sources to get the budget deal done. She wasn't the only one. Rep. Mike Beard, R-Shakopee, also said Republicans need to find more money to end the shutdown.

"At some point I think we're going to be willing to accept more revenue. Now if it's tax revenue, that's another discussion," said Beard. "Is it permanent? Is it temporary? What's the commitment going forward? Because we don't only have a deficit right now, we already have a deficit in the next two years that we're looking at."

Several other Republicans have also said they support new revenue to get the budget deal done. Many have said they could support slot machines at the horse tracks, or an expanded sales tax to help pay back delays in K-12 school funding. 

Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, told his local paper that he could support an expansion of gambling or an increase in taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. At least for now, Republican leaders disagree.