Budget Talks Begin

Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders opened budget negotiations Wednesday.

They decided their next job in crafting a $46 billion, two-year state budget will come this afternoon when they will discuss agriculture and higher education funding bills. The Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature are closer on those two bills than most of the other eight budget measures; they are far apart on many of the bills.

Before the state budget can be approved, Dayton insists that hundreds of the 609 policy items be taken out of budget bills. For months, he has warned that bills funding various parts of state government should not contain policy items unless they require funding.

The talks began on the day the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported a poll showing Dayton with his best-ever approval rating, 62 percent.