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Budget deal at Legislature remains out of reach as layoffs loom

ST. PAUL — Urgency is sinking in as top Minnesota leaders resume private budget talks away from the Capitol.

For a fourth day, majority House Republican leaders were meeting Friday with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton about how to structure an education budget and a few other pieces of a spending plan for the next two years.

The goal is to get the template of a deal soon to allow for a special session to ratify it. On Monday, state officials will send out layoff notices to nearly 9,500 workers who would be idled if a budget is not set by July 1.

Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt met Thursday for a third straight day of private talks at Dayton's residence.

"It's going to make it much more starkly real to them," Dayton said of impending layoff notices to employees scattered across 17 state agencies, boards and departments. "On the other hand, we don't want to rush through this and not get it right."


Agriculture, environment, jobs and economic development are all on the table due to the governor's veto of those budget bills last week. But with the main dispute over public school funding, the two sides called in early education experts to support their arguments.

Dr. Art Reynolds, a professor at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development, came to the side of the governor, who wants a statewide preschool program. In Daudt's corner was Dr. Art Rolnick, a former Federal Reserve economist who advocates for need-based early learning scholarships for at-risk children.

Dayton insists his approach can be married with Republicans' plan to increase funding for those scholarships and pour more money into the state's per-pupil funding formula. The two negotiators agreed early education is crucial step to tackle an achievement gap.

"At what point are we going to commit the resources necessary?" Dayton asked.

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