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With deal reached, Minnesota government shutdown should end soon, leaders say

Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders emerged from more than three hours of negotiations Thursday with the “framework” of a budget deal that would end the state’s 14-day-old government shutdown.

If all goes as planned, the shutdown could end within the next few days, Dayton and the leaders said.

Dayton sent a letter to House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch Thursday morning saying he’d concede to most of the demands set forth in their June 30 proposal. Among those items were two major one-time revenue sources: the shift of $700 million in payments to public schools and borrowing another $700 million from the state’s tobacco settlement fund.

The governor was also forced to drop his signature proposal to increase taxes the wealthiest Minnesotans. However, the governor did set forth a few conditions.

Namely, he told the legislators he wanted them to stick to their public statements that agreements must not include any social or policy issues, which crept into negotiations as the shutdown neared. He said a $500 million bonding bill would be necessary, as well as increases of $50 per pupil in school payments to offset the education payment delays. In addition, Dayton wanted $10 million to offset tuition hikes to higher education and to restore funding for the Department of Human Rights and the Trade Office.

The details of what the final budget will look like are still unclear and Dayton, Koch and Zellers agreed the solution isn’t a perfect one.

“We’re spending more than we wanted to,” Koch said during Thursday eventing’s press conference from the capitol. “At the end of the day, yes, we had to compromise … It’s a deal we can all be disappointed in. But it’s a budget that will be balanced. I don’t know that we’re all happy at all. None of us got exactly what we wanted.”

Koch said he believed the deal has the votes it needs to pass the legislature, but noted the bonding aspect will require bipartisan support in both bodies.

“There’s no good or easy way to take care of $5 billion deficit,” said Dayton, who continued to speak against a “lights on” bill to temporarily end the shutdown. “I’m disappointed I couldn’t persuade the Legislature on the [increased] taxes … I would come to a midpoint in terms of spending level. We’ll be very close with the final agreement … I think the people of Minnesota won today.”

Dayton said he now plans to work around the clock to end the shutdown.

“I’ll be here all weekend,” he said.

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