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The news Monday was about as good as anyone could have hoped for. Minnesota’s improving economy has lopped $1.2 billion from what had been a projected $6.2 billion budget deficit for the next two fiscal years.

Given that almost everyone in St. Paul agrees that the state won’t repay its $1.4 billion debt to K-12 schools before 2014, the “real” size of the two-year budget deficit now sits at about $3.6 billion. A daunting figure, to be sure, but much less so than $6.2 billion.

So, now that we know the “real” size of the state’s budget deficit, we have a simple request for the Legislature: Could we please get serious about fixing it?

The Republican Party last week sent Gov. Dayton a letter, reiterating their opposition to Dayton’s budget proposal and any new taxes or tax increases. His response was entirely appropriate — essentially, he told the GOP to bring him a counter-offer, rather than sitting on the sidelines lobbing grenades at his plan. 

We’re glad to hear him take such a position, because two weeks ago in Rochester, he told us that he was perfectly content to wait until late March or even early April for the GOP to get its plan together. That would be a mistake. No negotiating will occur until the Republicans put their cards on the table, and we have no interest in the games that are likely to take place between now and then — including the Senate’s plan to vote this week on Dayton’s budget.

Everyone — including Dayton himself — knows his plan is dead on arrival, even more so now that it’s based on a budget forecast that was off by $1.2 billion. He has as much as admitted that he went as far to the political left as he could with his budget, just to create plenty of bargaining room in the middle.

So the only reason to vote on his budget is to officially demonstrate GOP unanimity against it. Anyone who needs such a demonstration clearly hasn’t been paying attention for the past month.