Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) has the upper-hand; he holds all of the cards, only he can call a Special Session, and since legislative leaders have proven their inability to agree, he needs to take charge. Prior to the call, Dayton should demand all bills are presented in final form, without amendments, and a binding agreement is signed by both Republican House Speaker Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-30A, Crown) and DFL Senate Majority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-03, Cook).
The end of the legislative session occurred as we expected, without much productivity. The Republican led House and the DFL Senate, along with the Governor couldn’t find agreement on much, including issues the Republicans campaigned on, Transportation and Rural Economic Development.
If Dayton forces the leaders to agree in advance, and announces the agreement publically, it will make the process more transparent and the public’s interests will be better served. The gamesmanship that took place this session was unconscionable. The secrecy and last minute dealings make Minnesota seem more like a country from the Soviet Eastern Bloc rather than a vibrant Democracy in the United States.
Veto the Tax Bill?
Yes, Dayton should veto the Tax Bill because this will force the two sides to negotiate earnestly; otherwise they lose the only accomplishment of the abridged eleven week legislative session. The issue in question is the suspension of the automatic inflator on tobacco taxation. The state loses $26 million from future state budgets, and operates opposite of the overall goal of reduction of tobacco consumption. The reality is many people would rather see our public policy of taxing tobacco to its end rather than continue to pay for the long-term healthcare costs of smokers.
The Shot Across the Avenue
The best line we have heard since session end is by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Katie Sieben (DFL-53, Cottage Grove) describing the session Bonding Bill crafted by House Republicans and sent over to the Senate with 15 minutes before the midnight deadline as, “The missile shot across University Avenue.” When the Senate received the bill, it lacked full funding for the agreement between the House and Senate of $20 million for the Metropolitan Council for transit. The Senate amended the bill with $10 million to fill the gap and in turn the House adjourned Sine Die.
What To Do?
The only way to resolve the impasse for the Governor to be the adult in the room, state clearly his demands, as we have already heard he wants funding for the University of Minnesota’s Health and Sciences Building for $243 million and more money for the MNSCU system. Traditionally, Higher Education receives 30% of the overall Bonding Bill and this year the amount falls far short of the mark. House Republicans will have to decide if the main issue is the size of the bill, or what communities can best be served. Since House Republicans are already on the record supporting a $990 million bill they can easily defend against a forced hand that increases the total. The bill left the House with 91 votes.
If the Bonding Bill is just increased with more projects and hence a higher price tag, then the House Republicans who withdraw support can easily be replaced with House DFLers. Many of the DFL opposed the bill mainly because of the covert and secretive process deployed by the Republican House Leadership, but they will step up when the process is far more open and more Minesotan.