Burning budget talks question: Where do we sit?

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Bakk Table
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk moved a conference table into his office for budget negotiations. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Competing ideas for taxes, transportation funding and a $1.9 billion surplus are just some of the challenges facing DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders during their end-of-session budget negotiations.

They also need to figure out where to negotiate.

The renovation work inside the state Capitol forced Dayton and his staff to relocate to another building after last year’s session. The governor’s reception room, which was traditionally the key deal-making venue in the Capitol, is currently closed off.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the space limitations will add a degree of difficulty to already tough negotiations. But Bakk is offering a solution.

“The only one of the three leaders that have to put this deal together that has an office in the building is me,” Bakk said. “I actually took a bunch of my furniture out earlier this week and we put a small conference table in the office.”

Bakk said he’s hosting a meeting with the governor Friday to discuss budget targets.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, is the other key player in the pending negotiations. Daudt, who already has a conference table in his office across the street from the Capitol, sounded unimpressed by Bakk’s remodeling.

“He’s going to need the home field advantage,” Daudt joked. “He’s also asked me to tie one hand behind my back to make it fair.”

Despite the renovations, Daudt said he expects most of the negotiating will end up taking place inside the Capitol. He said it doesn't matter where, and Bakk’s office is fine with him.

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