The Legislative Session is Far From Over

Political games between the Governor’s Office and Legislative leaders could lead to a summer in court.

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House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka speak with press after meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton (Preya Samsundar/Alpha News MN)

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Legislative leaders may have ended their special session, but it’s the governor who has the final say.

Gov. Mark Dayton gave himself a self-imposed deadline of midnight Tuesday to make formal decisions on 10 Omnibus Bills that provide funding for the state’s $46 billion budget passed during the three-day special session.  

On Tuesday, Dayton had his final say; he would sign all ten budget bills and vetoed pre-emption, but use the line item veto to defund the House and Senate.

Dayton was upset about the “poison pill” clause included in the State Government Omnibus bill which would defund the Department of Revenue if the Tax Bill was not signed into law.

“I consider this provision, snuck into the State Government bill without my knowledge, to be a reprehensible sneak attack, which shatters whatever trust we achieved during the Session,” Dayton wrote to legislative leaders.

Dayton crossed out lines 2.24 and 2.25 in the State Government Omnibus bill, stripping more than $64 million from each legislative body for fiscal years 2018-2019 and 2020-2021.

“From his lips to my ears, he [Dayton] has agreed to them,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said in response to Dayton’s decision to defund the legislature.

In a letter to Legislative leaders, Dayton writes:

“Because of your actions, which attempts to restrict my executive power, I am left with only the following means to raise my strong objections to your tax bill, which favors wealthy individuals, large corporations, and moneyed special interests at the expense of the State of Minnesota’s fiscal stability in the years ahead.

“Thus, I am line-item vetoing the appropriations for the House and Senate in FY 18/19 and FY 20/21. Your job has not been satisfactorily completed, so I am calling on you to finish your work.”

Dayton continued, telling Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) that he would be willing to hold another special session, should leaders agree to several demands.

First, Dayton demanded the removal of tobacco tax breaks, telling leaders, “You could find room to sneak in a special tax break for premium cigars for some special, moneyed friends.”

Dayton also called for the cancellation of increases in estate tax exclusions. “Reducing state revenues by $109.3 million from the richest Minnesotans to little public benefit is extremely ill-advised,” he wrote.

“I support excluding the first $100,000 of business property from statewide property taxes…However, freezing the levy has disastrous effects in future years,” Dayton wrote, telling leaders that they would have to unfreeze the C-I property tax levy.

Dayton also included the removal of language that would prevent undocumented immigrants from obtaining driver’s licenses stating, “Your intent to further divide our evermore diverse population might be politically advantageous to you (it must be, or you wouldn’t have done it); but it is destructive to the future well-being of the people of Minnesota.”

Finally, Dayton demanded renegotiations for teacher licensure provisions stating, “the integrity of Minnesota’s profession teaching standards is of paramount importance.”

“I am just, personally disappointed in the Governor’s behavior,” Daudt said in a joint press conference with Gazelka yesterday afternoon. “It means he doesn’t respect the legislative branch of government and thinks that he can dictate to the legislature terms and try to get us to do things by not funding the legislature.”

“This was a twist we did not expect,” Gazelka said. “It’s a separation of powers issue, we won’t function for very long without the funds we need.”

Daudt and Gazelka did not rule out legal action against Dayton’s administration if an agreement cannot be reached. Both leaders said another special session would not happen.

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