Dayton aims for special session on Monday

Gov. Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton addresses reporters in the lobby of Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul, Minn., on July 15, 2011.
MPR Photo/Nikki Tundel

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday called state employees the "real heroes" of the budget stalemate and shutdown and said he's hopeful they will get back pay to make up for lost wages.

The shutdown, which began July 1, will remain in place until a budget is enacted. Dayton, who was a guest on MPR's Midday today, said he hopes to have details of the budget agreement between him and Republican legislative leaders finished tonight. He said he hoped a special session of the Legislature would happen Monday to pass the budget.

"If we can get the lights back on next Monday I think we will have done well under the circumstances," Dayton said.

Republican lawmakers said it could still take some time to draft the bills and prepare them for a vote.

"There's just a tremendous amount of work," Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told Morning Edition on Friday. "The devil's still in the details on all these bills."

Dayton has said he wants more of the details to be worked out before he calls lawmakers back to the Capitol.

"I think if the pressure of time, if the urgency of getting this settled right now were removed, people tend to revert back to their previous positions," he said.

Republican legislative leaders are unlikely to get much help from DFL legislators, and Dayton said it was up to individual lawmakers how to vote on the deal. Some DFLers have already said they'll vote against it because the solution relies on borrowing rather than on the permanent revenue they supported in the form of tax increases on Minnesota's top earners.

"I don't plan on voting for a borrowing proposal," Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, told MPR's Midmorning. Bakk called the plan "totally irresponsible."

House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, said members of his caucus have "grave concerns" about the deal. But he said he's waiting to see the details before saying how he'll vote.

"This really is truly a Republican proposal," Thissen told Morning Edition.

Both Bakk and Thissen gave Dayton credit for finding a way to end the shutdown without what they called drastic cuts.

"He decided that he simply was going to have to find a way to mitigate the bad cuts and get the state back to work," Bakk said.

WAITING FOR THE DETAILS

The deal relies on $700 million in delayed payments to school districts and $700 million in borrowing against the state's future tobacco settlement payments. Republican leaders had offered up the budget framework hours before the shutdown began, but Dayton rejected the idea at the time.

One difference between the Republicans' earlier proposal and Thursday's deal is that Dayton added his own conditions. He took out many of the Republicans' policy provisions, such as a ban on stem cell research at the University of Minnesota, and added a $500 million bonding bill. He also said Republicans won't get their 15 percent cut to the state workforce.

Budget deal reached
With House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Governor Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch answers questions about the budget deal at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. Thursday, July 14, 2011.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

But the state's universities, transit officials, cities and other groups were left wondering what the final budget will mean for them.

Dayton gave a few more clues about the budget on Midday, saying local government aid payments would likely be set at 2010 levels. That could force local governments to raise property taxes because of increased demands for services, Dayton said.

He said schools will get an increase in per-pupil funding, which will more than cover the extra borrowing costs districts will undertake due to delayed payments from the state.

"I think most of the school districts are going to come out well ahead in this arrangement," Dayton said.

Metropolitan Council spokeswoman Bonnie Kollodge said commissioners and the council will work with lawmakers in the next few days as they finalize the budget bills that could affect transit.

University of Minnesota and MnSCU officials expect they'll get $60 million more in funding than they would have received under the GOP budget bills that Dayton vetoed.

Because Dayton was able to get Republicans to agree to $1.4 billion in additional spending, it's likely most of the cuts he had warned about during the shutdown will be avoided. Still, the details of the budget have major implications for hundreds of agencies and programs across the state.

The 22,000 or so state workers laid off during the shutdown will be called back to work a soon as the budget is enacted, union officials said. Dayton said he's hopeful they will get back pay for lost wages. After the 2005 shutdown, state workers were able to recover some of their losses in an agreement with then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

But Michael Kuchta, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 5, said union leaders don't expect they'll end up getting any back pay.

POLITICAL LESSONS

Some political observers have been struck by how close the budget deal was to Republican leaders' offer just before the shutdown. But it appears timing mattered.

The two-week shutdown of state government put additional pressure on both sides, forcing them to compromise, said Larry Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota.

"I think it was getting to the breaking point," Jacobs told Morning Edition. "When it first happened, there was a sense that didn't really affect people. But every day it went by, people started to see government where they hadn't seen it before. ... Public opinion was beginning to boil, or at least start to bubble."

Dayton also suggested the shutdown accomplished something: "What we got out of the shutdown was this agreement, which we didn't have before," he said.

But when asked if he'd have done anything differently, Dayton said it was a conversation for another day. "Invite me back in a couple months when I've had a chance to look back and reflect," he told Midday host Gary Eichten.

Koch said she's still focused on finishing the budget, rather than reflecting on the process. But as she and House Speaker Kurt Zellers said Thursday, the solution wasn't perfect.

"Is it ideal? No, absolutely not," she said.

Thissen said the process reflected the debate playing out in Washington over the federal budget.

"One of the things I think the shutdown does show is how interconnected we all are," he said. "We all have a joint interest in making sure our government is working and working as effectively as possible. I hope we can take that seed of a lesson and move that forward."

(MPR hosts Gary Eichten, Cathy Wurzer and Kerri Miller, and reporters Alex Friedrich, Dan Olson and Tom Scheck contributed to this report.)

Your support matters.

You make MPR News possible. Individual donations are behind the clarity in coverage from our reporters across the state, stories that connect us, and conversations that provide perspectives. Help ensure MPR remains a resource that brings Minnesotans together.