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Dayton backs down on dispute with GOP, clears way for budget deal

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Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday he's backing down over a major sticking point he has with Republican lawmakers over the role of the state auditor's office, so work can be completed on a state budget by the June 30 deadline.

According to WCCO, Dayton reluctantly dropped his objections to a new law that would allow individual counties to hire private consultants, rather than the state auditor's office, to conduct financial audits.

"I'm not going to put at risk any further the people with 9,400 jobs who are at risk," Dayton said.

The governor said earlier he wouldn't sign off on a special session – aimed at resolving the budget stalemate – without a promise from lawmakers that they repeal the provision and restore the state auditor's duties. But GOP leaders refused to go along with the request.

If there's no budget agreement by July 1, Minnesota will go into partial government shutdown, under which thousands of state employees will be laid off.

Now, with Dayton's concession, a special session is likely to take place shortly, with the governor saying it could happen later this week, MPR News reports.

State Auditor Rebecca Otto has been campaigning furiously against the law change, which would remove much of her office's authority.

However, Dayton raised a few other issues over which he disagrees with Republican lawmakers, including funding for jobseekers with disabilities and people with mental illness, that he wants resolved before he calls the special session, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The announcement comes just days after Dayton and the GOP seemed to arrive at a compromise resolving the issues that pushed the Legislature into extra innings in the first place.

The two sides agreed on an education spending bill – an issue that had long been at the center of the budget dispute – but Dayton said last week that he wouldn't budge on the measure limiting the state auditor.

Dayton, who once held that position, disagreed strongly with the change and suggested that "eviscerating" the auditor's powers required a change to Minnesota's constitution that ought to be decided by voters, not lawmakers.

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