ST. PAUL — Minnesota state government has a budget, other than for the Legislature.
Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the Legislature’s budget Tuesday, May 30, because of what he called “a reprehensible sneak attack, which shatters whatever trust we achieved during the session.” The action was a line tucked into one of the budget bills Dayton signed Tuesday that stopped Revenue Department funding unless another bill cutting taxes became law.
That “poison pill,” Dayton said, was “snuck” into a bill funding many state programs that he did not feel he could veto.
If the Republican-controlled Legislature wants its funding, the Democratic governor said, it will have to agree to five of his demands.
Legislative leaders reacted by saying they expect to take legal action against Dayton.
Otherwise, Dayton signed 10 budget bills to form the two-year, $46 billion budget that begins July 1. That means about $2.4 million in projects included in the bonding bill and another $30,000 in the Legacy funding bill will soon make its way to Rice County. The veto was of a provision that funds the Legislature at $82 million a year.
He said that he has strong disagreements with many provisions contained in the legislation, but signing less-than-perfect bills is better than the 20-day state government shutdown that he endured in 2011, his first year as governor.
The governor said he signed budget bills “because I wanted to remove any possibility that those (state) jobs and the whole function of state government would be put into jeopardy.”
Dayton allowed the tax bill to become law without his signature, although Republicans questioned whether that is legal. Dayton’s veto of legislative funding, announced Tuesday evening, came as a surprise. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, did not know how to respond after a day of flying around the state telling Minnesotans that lawmakers did good work during a regular and special session that ended last week.
“Unfortunately, the governor is choosing to take an action we think is unprecedented,” Daudt said.
The speaker said that he expects to call the House Rules Committee into a meeting to discuss starting legal action. Gazelka was more reluctant to make the move, but said the Senate would take similar action if there is no other quick resolution.
“I think it is a separation of power issue,” Gazelka said. “I don’t know how they can possibly defund the people’s voice.”
Gazelka said the Senate may have about $3 million in reserve and Daudt said his chamber has about $7 million in the bank. They said the reserves would last a few months.
The legislative leaders said it is likely that the state constitution requires lawmakers to receive raises given them by an independent commission, established by a public vote last November, before employees and other expenses are paid.
Many groups have raised their voices in recent days urging Dayton to veto some or all of the budget bills. As a special session ended last week, a common chant inside the Capitol was, “Veto everything.”
Only the governor can call legislators into a special session, and Dayton said he would call them back only with prior agreement from leaders to pass five bills that change portions of new laws:
• Reverse tobacco tax breaks.
• Cancel a cut in estate taxes.
• Remove a freeze on statewide business property taxes.
• Take out a provision that prohibits undocumented immigrants from getting driver’s licenses.
• Renegotiate a measure that allows professionals to become teachers easier.
Daudt said Dayton had agreed to some of the five provisions in the bills: “From his lips to my ears.”
Dayton said he would not sign a bill funding the Legislature if lawmakers do not meet his demands.
GOP leaders said they did not think a special session would be needed and Dayton did not indicate when he might call one, other than to say it only would be after an agreement is reached on his bills.