House GOP frustrated by pace of budget talks

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and top legislative leaders have another round of closed-door budget talks planned Tuesday afternoon, with hopes of making some progress toward a deal.

With less than a week left in the 2015 session, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, expressed frustration with the pace of negotiations Tuesday morning. He wants more meetings and more willingness from Democrats to compromise on issues like transportation funding and taxes.

“If we don’t see some real movement today, I guess I’m going to have to draw a conclusion that they don’t want to get their work done on time, and that they somehow think that that gives them some upper hand or advantage,” Daudt said. “The bottom line is my caucus isn’t voting for a gas tax.”

One potential complication Tuesday night is Dayton’s scheduled appearance at an organizing event in Minneapolis for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. A spokesman said the event is still on the schedule, but the governor’s attendance will depend on the budget talks.

Daudt said he expects Dayton to remain at the negotiation table.

“I would assume that he has enough common sense to know that the business of the state of Minnesota is much more important than some political obligation. I certainly wouldn’t leave negotiations to go to some political event, nor should he.”

But Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Dayton doesn’t have to sit through every negotiation session. He said he’s never seen any governor do that.

“The governor is not going to be engaged 24/7,” Bakk said. “He’s going to come in and close the deal. That’s how it’s always worked, and that’s how it’s going to work this time.”

On the status of negotiations, Bakk said it will up to House Republicans to decide whether a budget deal is reached on time. He said they have to give up their plan to dismantle the health care program known as MinnesotaCare.

Bakk said he also wants Republicans to give up on the idea of passing a transportation bill or a tax bill.

“I think they’re both dead. They’re not must-pass bills," he said. "It’s Tuesday, we have to start focusing on the bills that have to pass.”

House and Senate negotiators have big disagreements to resolve in the “must-pass” spending bills, including health and human services, education and state government finance.

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