Republican legislative leaders met briefly with Gov. Mark Dayton for another round of budget talks, but reported no progress and did not say whether they are any closer to a deal that would avert a state government shutdown.
After a marathon round of negotiations over the weekend, talks apparently broke off on Sunday night. Today, the leaders met with Dayton for less than an hour, and said they have another meeting tentatively scheduled for 9 a.m. tomorrow.
As with the previous meetings, Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) said they would not divulge any details about the conversations that took place. Zellers said it’s crucial that the negotiators maintain a “cone of silence” until they have a deal.
“We want to make sure that we can have a frank and honest conversation in the room … that we feel comfortable that things won’t be leaked out or misinterpreted,” Zellers said.
Current biennial funding runs out Friday at 12:01 a.m. If lawmakers and Dayton do not enact a new budget before then, the state will likely be forced to shut down nearly all of its services. Zellers said they’re doing everything they can do avoid that scenario.
“Because this is a very different legislative makeup, because these are tough economic times, these are difficult budget items to work through. It’s taking us a little longer, but I think most Minnesotans would say, ‘Do it right. Get it right the first time,’” he said.
Dayton called today’s meeting “constructive,” but when pressed for details, he offered few.
“They had some very good questions and I had some answers, and said I wanted to think about it some more and get back to them tomorrow. It was cordial and we talked about the realities from both of our perspectives,” Dayton said.
Asked whether he thought a shutdown could be avoided, Dayton replied only that they are trying.
“Either one is possible — that we will or that we won’t. I’m not going to lay odds on it,” he said.