Governor, Leaders: Short Session Soon

The clock is ticking for Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton to reach a budget deal for a special legislative session, they said after meeting Tuesday, May 26, 2015. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)
The clock is ticking for Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton to reach a budget deal for a special legislative session, they said after meeting Tuesday, May 26, 2015. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

It was fitting that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt stood by a grandfather clock Tuesday after they began planning a special legislative session.

The two said they do not want much time to elapse before they revise and pass three vetoed budget bills, as well as some legislation that did not get done during the regular session that adjourned last week.

“It behooves us to get it done as soon as possible,” Dayton said.

Daudt said Minnesotans want the work done quickly.

The first deadline would be difficult to meet: If the budget measures do not pass before Monday, the state will send notices to 10,288 employees warning them that they could be laid off if a budget is not approved before July 1.

“That will send out enormous shockwaves through those individuals,” Dayton said.

Dayton, Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, who met with Dayton separately late Tuesday afternoon, plan a special session well before their ultimate July 1 deadline. If budgets are not done by then, state government would go into a partial shutdown.

Legislative leaders and Dayton did not discuss specifics, but agreed on one thing: The session will be held across the street from the Capitol in the State Office Building, better known as the “SOB.” Because the Capitol building is closed for renovation, Dayton had suggested lawmakers meet in a tent on the Capitol lawn and a luxury hotel offered space for free, but the SOB is a state building and is set up for television and other needs.

While leaders and Dayton have a goal of a one-day session, Daudt said he “will shoot for” committee meetings in advance of the session so the public may be involved. However, he added, he wants to mostly work off of bills that passed in the regular session, so the public already knows about the legislation.

Dayton has scaled back his requirements for a pre-kindergarten program, and seeks more money for overall per-pupil spending than passed in the initial education bill. In exchange for more money for education, he offered to agree to a one-time tax cut that Republicans may want.

As for the $260 million tax cut, a fraction of the $2 billion cut Republicans sought, Daudt said he has not “thought about it completely,” so could not say if he supports it.

Dayton has vetoed three of eight bills funding state government, amounting to almost $17.5 billion of the $42 billion two-year budget, creating the need for a special legislative session to finish the budget.

Only the governor can call a special session, and Dayton said he will do that only after he and all four legislative leaders agree to an agenda.

Dayton has set an eight-item agenda, more than most recent special sessions:

— Rewrite and pass a vetoed education funding bill with money to launch a pre-kindergarten program.

— Rewrite and pass a vetoed spending bill for jobs, economic development and energy, including more broadband expansion funds.

— Rewrite and pass a vetoed agriculture and environment funding bill, keeping money for avian flu recovery and requiring buffer strips around state waters.

— Overturn a just-passed provision that would allow private auditors to check county books instead of the state auditor.

— Pass a public works funding bill.

— Pass the “legacy bill” to fund outdoors and arts projects, and add funding for a White Earth Band project to protect forests, wildlife and habitat on the Wild River Watershed.

— Pass a $260 million one-time income tax cut, an olive branch to Republicans who place lower taxes at the top of their priority list.

— On Tuesday, Dayton added to his list passage of a bill that would allow felons’ vote to be restored after they get out of prison.