Friday, August 19, 2016

Our perpetually petulant governor - Part MMLIV

It's official. There will be no special session of the MN Legislature in 2016.

Gov. Mark Dayton says he'll no longer seek a special session for legislation on public works spending and tax relief following another failed attempt to reach a deal with Republicans.

Dayton announced his decision Thursday after a brief meeting with House and Senate leaders. He said the past three months of negotiations proved to be "futile" in trying to resolve partisan disagreements over funding for the Southwest Light Rail project between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

"I think both the tax bill and the bonding bill would be very beneficial to lots of Minnesotans. That's my disappointment that we couldn't get this worked out in a way that we could proceed with both and pass both and them provide the tax relief and new projects that would benefit thousands of Minnesotans," Dayton said.

Emphasis was mine. The bonding bill (which included funding for vital transportation projects) was scuttled with less than an hour remaining in the regular legislative session due to the Democrats' insistence on money for Southwest Light Rail Transit. Despite that, there was overwhelming bipartisan support for the tax bill which Gov. Dayton referenced. As the session was in its final week, Dayton flat out emphasized that he would not hold tax relief hostage even if other major items went unresolved.

Like a lot of things Dayton says, that sentiment apparently came with a shelf life.

A tax cut bill did pass, but Dayton allowed it to die without his signature because of a wording error that would have cost the state $100 million over the next three years.

The move incensed Republicans who believed Dayton was simply playing politics with the bill and holding it hostage for a deal on transportation. Dayton said that wasn't the case and blamed House Republicans for the chaotic end of the session that led to the costly error in the tax bill.

When House Speaker Kurt Daudt appeared on my radio program two weeks after session ended, he specifically addressed the governor's concerns and indicated that legislators had no issues with clearing up those technicalities. Not good enough for Dayton apparently, even though it wouldn't have taken an entire day for the Legislature to revise the tax bill accordingly. With that in mind, I don't believe Daudt is out of bounds when he accuses Dayton of playing politics with this issue.

Daudt on Thursday repeated his belief that Dayton was using the tax bill as a lever to get Republican agreement on Southwest light rail. Good legislation was being lost, he added, because of no deal on light rail.

Daudt added he believed Southwest light rail was "dead."

He added that he was still willing to meet and talk about a special session.

Dayton said he plans to meet with the chair of the Metropolitan Council to discuss options for light rail funding. The governor also said he'll propose similar a tax bill, and separate transportation funding bill next session.

How those bills will look next session is absolutely dependent upon how this November's election turns out. If the DFL can flip the House, say hello to SWLRT.

I guess our mission is clear.


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