UPDATED WITH INFORMATION FROM SPEAKER KURT DAUDT PRESS CONFERENCE
With the legislative session winding down and budget chasms that must still be bridged on a variety of issues, Gov. Mark Dayton urged leaders in the House and Senate to get specific with their plans for transportation and bonding, among others, so productive negotiations can begin.
“We’re at the point in this legislative session where we need to get real,” Dayton said during a press conference Friday.
Dayton distributed copies of a letter sent to legislative leaders restating his position that the state must raise at least $600 million annually in new revenue to maintain basic infrastructure and make needed improvements to the state’s roads and bridges.
Dayton also called for $280 million in ongoing revenue to maintain and improve transit systems and said the transportation bill passed by the Legislature must include this funding, although he also said he was willing to negotiate.
“Another failure to make these investments will cause further deterioration in highway conditions, congestion, and safety,” Dayton wrote. “That failure would be irresponsible and inexcusable.”
Lawmakers have just over three weeks to finish their work before their constitutionally mandated May 23 adjournment date.
“We hope to get a comprehensive transportation package done this session. We are certainly willing to talk, but we need to leave with funding we all agree on,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt said at his own news conference.
Daudt remains optimistic that progress can still be made.
“Anyone who is saying we can’t get anything done this session has ulterior motives. ... Let’s roll up our sleeves and finish the session strong.”
Republicans, who control the House, disagree with the DFL-led Senate on what to do with state’s $900 million budget surplus – how much should be spent and where that money must go. Both are proposing tax relief, transportation spending and broadband funding, but the two sides aren’t close on the numbers.
They are also far apart on the even-year bonding package traditionally passed by the Legislature during a session’s second year. Dayton’s bonding proposal is $1.4 billion and Senate Democrats, who are set to release their proposal Monday, will likely exceed a billion dollars with their own package, but House Republicans are proposing about $600 million in bonding.
Dayton challenged House Republicans to provide the details of that proposal, saying they should put it “face up” on the table.
“Until we get that kind of clarity from the House leadership, we’re stymied in terms of having the real kind of conversations that are necessary,” Dayton said.
Session Daily writer Nick Longworth contributed to this story