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GOP makes spending offer; stands firm on raising revenue

With the state budget deadline for government shut-down looming, Senate and House Republican leadership met with Gov. Mark Dayton Monday to negotiate a compromise.

If the governor and state legislature fail to reach agreement in special session by the end of June, there will be a government shutdown and programs such as Bemidji State University summer classes and state highway projects will come to a halt.

"Special sessions are not rare; shut-downs are," said House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood. He and Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji stopped in Bemidji to discuss their current proposal.

The proposal offers a 100 percent match with Dayton's funding requests for education, public safety and the judiciary.

"We're willing to meet the governor on these three areas," said Dean.

"We haven't heard anything back from the governor on that," Hancock said.

The Republicans remain firm in their stand against raising taxes. The governor proposes raising taxes on the richest 2 percent of Minnesotans.

Dean said shutting down the government would be costly and a hardship on government employees and citizens needing services.

"The good news is it's avoidable and unnecessary," he said.

He and Hancock pointed out that the Republican budget allocates $34 billion, more than any previous budget.

It's 6 percent over last biennium," Hancock said.

Dean said he believes the increases in government spending are caused by "automatic inflators" and "escalators," by which he means Health and Human Services expanding benefits and union contracts with benefit obligations.

"I'd say people are just as frustrated about government now as they were last fall," Dean said.

He said he is willing to negotiate "every penny and every policy."

"We do need him to engage, and we do need him to come to the table," Dean said.

Together, education, public safety and judiciary budgets comprise about 50 percent of the state's general fund spending.

"We gave him half the budget at his numbers," Dean said.

Now, he said, Republicans and DFLers both have to vote for the proposed compromise in a spirit of bipartisanship.