MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton offered Thursday to end a two-week government shutdown by accepting a Republican proposal to bring more money into Minnesota's budget.
Dayton announced that he is willing to agree to an offer Republican legislative leaders made just before the shutdown started, if they will agree to drop a list of policy changes and a plan to reduce the state workforce by 15 percent. The Republican proposal would raise $1.4 billion, half by delaying state aid checks to school districts and the other half by selling tobacco payment bonds.
Aides said GOP leaders were reviewing Dayton's offer and had no immediate comment.
If they agree to Dayton's proposal and the pieces fall in place, the first-term governor said he is prepared to call a special session within three days.
The move was a major concession by Dayton, who has sought to soften the effect of budget cuts by raising income taxes on the highest earners. More recently, he has offered to consider an array of other revenue raisers, including cigarette and alcohol taxes and a broader sales tax.
Dayton has been on the road this week, holding public events around the state, and said he received a clear message from the people he met: End the shutdown.
"They want this resolved and they don't even care how. I care how," Dayton told a University of Minnesota audience in Minneapolis.
Dayton said he is reluctant to accept the Republicans' way out of the budget impasse.
"Despite my serious reservations about your plan, I have concluded that continuing the state government shutdown would be even more destructive for too many Minnesotans," he said in a letter to GOP leaders that he read aloud. "Therefore, I am willing to agree to something I do not agree with — your proposal — in order to spare our citizens and our state from further damage."
Dayton is also asking lawmakers to approve a construction projects bill totaling at least $500 million.
The shutdown has closed state parks and rest stops, prevented many people from getting licenses they need to launch careers or move ahead with businesses, and cut off funding streams to countless social service programs. It has also cost the state millions in preparation costs and lost revenue.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.