DFL Gov. Mark Dayton Thursday joined all the Republican lawmakers in what he called a private "constructive" meeting. But the hour-long visit didn't build any budget accord.
"I couldn't have been treated more respectfully and courteously, which I greatly appreciate. I think there was good listening going on on both sides," Dayton said after he left the meeting.
"I think it was very constructive. There was so give and some take...A lot members shared their stories," said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.
The meeting was unusual. A governor of an opposite party has not visited lawmakers' private caucus meetings since former Gov. Jesse Ventura, who was of the Independence Party and had no caucus, visited both caucuses.
As a sign of their openness to deal, Dayton twice gave his cell phone number to Republican members so they can talk to him anytime.
But that didn't solve the state's looming budget problem. Dayton wants to raise taxes and revenue to backfill the state's deficit. Republicans adamantly do not.
After the meeting, the governor did announce that he had agreed to personally meet with the lawmakers who put together the Legislature's education budget bill and the state government bill. That's a sign of progress but may not bring the state back from the brink.
"Dayton personally wants to meet with State Gov committees?????? He met with Rep Lanning and I a week ago to lecture us. What will change?" tweeted Sen. Mike Parry, a Waseca Republican who put together the state government's budget. Rep. Morrie Lanning is his counterpart in the House.
Still, the mood of reconciliation stood in sharp contrast to the biting words of the past few days.
Thursday morning, Dayton said "the way they look now" he would veto all the budget bills headed to his desk. He also repeated his claim that Republicans are irresponsible.
That sour mood continued at the start of the private caucus meeting.
"Your stated refusal to meet me halfway between our respective budget proposals disregards...well-established wisdom. The crux of our current impasse is no longer policy, or ideology, or even budget. It is your unwillingness to assume the responsibilities of leadership, to lead all Minnesotans toward a better future,” Dayton said, according to his prepared opening remarks to the meeting.
When lawmakers were asked later if those opening remarks were conciliatory, House Majority Leader Matt Dean said simply "no."