In the final hours of the legislative session, Rochester GOP Sen. Dave Senjem sat down for a one-on-one meeting with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. The topic? Dayton wanted to get Senjem's perspective on what it takes to cut a budget deal.
The former senate minority leader was part of four final budget deals. Senjem said he told the governor the key is for him and legislative leaders to sit down together in a room and start really negotiating.
"We're not going to get this thing done with 201 people. We're not going to get it done with press conferences. We need to start intense negotiations, prolonged negotiations involving legislative leaders and him," Senjem said.
He also told Dayton that as governor he needs to take the lead to make that happen.
When it comes to who is at fault for the session ending without a budget deal, Senjem said everyone is somewhat to blame. He said he backed the Republican strategy of passing out budget bills and leaving them open in hopes of negotiating with the governor. The idea was to avoid having the bills vetoed. In retrospect, he said "maybe I was a little idealistic."
He added, "The idea as good as it might have been just didn't work and so then what do we do? We throw a whole bunch of frankly bad bills at him — bills we knew needed to be negotiated with the governor," Senjem said.
He adds that Dayton also shares in the blame for not empowering his commissioners to work with legislative committee chairs on making changes to those budgets.
In the end, he said those serious negotiations between legislative leaders and the governor should probably have started at least two or three weeks ago. He said his hope is that the governor calls a special session as soon as possible so a deal can be struck to avoid a July 1 government shutdown.
"If he waits until June 27 (to call us back) and puts us against the July 1 wall, then it's politics," he said.