Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton announces on Saturday, May 23, 2015, that he vetoed spending bills for several state agencies. A special legislative session will be needed to finish the state budget. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed legislation funding state programs ranging from education to the parks, setting up a special legislative session and launching preparations for a potential partial government shutdown.
On Saturday, Dayton vetoed spending bills for agriculture, environment, jobs, economic development and energy. He already had rejected an education spending bill, meaning nearly $17.5 billion of the state’s $42 billion, two-year budget that begins July 1 lacks funding.
Talks to pass the rest of the state budget begin Tuesday afternoon when Dayton hosts House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
No one had a prediction about when a deal could be reached and, thus, when a special session could be scheduled. Dayton earlier said he would like one by mid-June.
Dayton said he will insist that lawmakers pass a public works finance measure, known as a bonding bill, and that they OK the “legacy bill” to fund outdoors and arts projects.
The Democratic governor said he will offer a $260 million income tax cut, for one year, as an attempt to get House Republicans to agree to his special session wants. Republicans had proposed to cut taxes $2 billion, but dropped it when they stopped a proposed Democratic gasoline tax increase.
The special session agenda is becoming more complicated and raising questions about how a deal can be done in slightly more than a month when answers to the same questions eluded lawmakers and Dayton the past five months.
If no deal among Dayton and four legislative leaders is reached by June 1, an unlikely goal, 10,288 state workers will receive notices indicating that they could be laid off in a month. On June 15, if no deal is reached, state parks will stop taking camping reservations, Dayton said.
The agencies that would have been funded in the vetoed bills could shut down July 1, short of a court order to remain open, if a special session has not approved money for them.
Commissioner Myron Frans of Minnesota Management and Budget said an “incident team” has been formed to plan for a potential partial shutdown.
Dayton and Frans were not predicting a shutdown but, like in the past when budgets were not passed on time, state officials begin to prepare for one just in case.
The Legislature adjourned Monday night, passing all eight budget bills. Dayton vetoed the education bill as soon as he could because it did not contain as much money as he wanted to pre-kindergarten education.
On Saturday, he tied his proposed tax cut to a $250 million boost in education funding, for his pre-kindergarten plan and to raise per-pupil funding 2 percent each of the next two years.
His new proposal would provide less money than the original one, and there would not be enough money for all schools to participate in the pre-kindergarten program at first.
Dayton said it was “very, very difficult” to veto the agriculture-environment bill because he supports $19 million for farmers dealing with avian flu and establishing specific requirements for buffers around state water.
However, he said that he opposes raiding money from some funds, delaying water quality standards and eliminating the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizen’s Board.
Most of his complaint about the jobs-economic development-energy funding measure was lack of funding for several programs. He specifically mentioned $12 million the bill set aside to expand broadband Internet service in rural areas; he wanted $30 million.
Frans said he has not figured out how much more money Dayton needs to accept the budget bills.
Republicans were not happy with the vetoes.
“The DFL-led Senate and Republican-led House made every effort to accommodate his requests, including his highly publicized land buffer initiative,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said.
Lawmakers representing areas where turkey and chicken flocks have been affected by bird flu were especially hot.
“Playing politics with the lives of farmers who have been devastated by the avian flu is simply wrong,” Rep. Dave Baker, R-Willmar, said.
As the session was winding down, Rep. David Bly, D-Northfield, several times tried to get the House to pass avian flu funding to help farmers repopulate flocks and to receive mental help assistance as a stand-alone bill instead of one that wrapped together hundreds of agriculture and environment issues. Republicans opposed him.
House Environment Chairman Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, said the governor’s office did not tell negotiators there were parts of their bill unacceptable to Dayton.
“It seems the governor’s version of compromise is his way or the highway,” McNamara said. “Moving forward from this veto, which blindsided us, will be difficult.”
Besides the two vetoes, Dayton on Saturday signed a bill funding a variety of state agencies. However, before calling a special session, he said that he will insist lawmakers during that session remove a provision in the bill that allows counties to hire private auditors to check their books instead of using the state auditor.
Both chambers of the Legislature passed 80 bills this year, the least since Minnesota became the state.
The year with the second fewest bills was 2002, with 131. It was Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s first term.
Legislators introduced 4,612 bills this year, about an average number.
Among bills Dayton has signed recently:
— Social workers who deal with children will be required to receive more training and undergo background checks. They also must investigate more cases than they do under current law.
— Environment and natural resources programs will receive $46 million from Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. Some of the money will go to study water, endangered species and biodiversity issues. Other funds are destined for fighting invasive species, reducing erosion and buying park and trail land.
— Uber and Lyft transportation services will be required to carry liability insurance for their drivers.
— Motorists may use electronic devices to provide proof of insurance.
— The state will join a compact that will allow doctors to practice in other states.
— Relatives of someone who died may object to an autopsy based on religious beliefs. There are restrictions.
— Some flame retardant chemicals believed to cause cancer are banned from certain products.
— Law enforcement agencies will be able to keep personal license plate reader data 60 days, longer if it is part of a court case.
One of the environmental provisions Dayton did not support, and led to a veto, would have delayed the requirement to build sewage treatment plants near the Red River until 2025.
Legislators approved the delay because North Dakota and South Dakota allow far greater amounts of some pollutants into the water than does Minnesota. The delay was meant to give officials time to work with the federal government to even out the requirements.
Dayton said that even though the states to the west do allow more pollutants into the Red River, Minnesota has an obligation to keep the water as clean as possible. He said that Canadian officials have been complaining to him about the polluted water flowing north.
North Dakota allows 12 times the federal limit for some pollutants into the water, Dayton said, while Minnesota is closer to three times.
“We’re both in violation of the standards,” Dayton said of rules the federal Environmental Protection Agency sets.
Dayton promised to talk about the issue with North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and EPA officials to see if the two states could meet the same standards. He said one problem is that Minnesota and North Dakota are in different EPA regions and they enforce federal rules differently.
City officials on the Minnesota side of the Red say they are being forced to spend millions of dollars to build or improve sewage treatment plants, when North Dakota pollution continues to harm the river. Dayton said he needs more information to decide if the state should provide more financial aid to the cities.
In his other Saturday veto, Dayton said one reason he took down the jobs-economic development-energy bill was that he provided no funding for a court case in which Minnesota is trying to limit air pollution from North Dakota electricity-producing plants.
Special session agenda
Dayton said he will insist on these items being addressed in a special legislative session:
— Rewrite and pass an education funding bill.
— Rewrite and pass a spending bill for jobs, economic development and energy.
— Rewrite and pass an agriculture and environment funding bill.
— Overturn a just-passed provision that would allow private auditors to check county books.
— Pass a public works funding bill.
— Pass the “legacy bill” to fund outdoors and arts projects.
— Pass a $250 million one-year income tax cut.