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Dayton vetoes most legislative session work

Gov. Mark Dayton. Don Davis / Forum News Service1 / 2
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said on Wednesday, May 23, 2018, that he was disappointed and angry that Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed most of the major provisions the Legislature passed this year. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL -- The veto pen found found most legislation Minnesota lawmakers passed this year.

Gov. Mark Dayton announced Wednesday, May 23, that he vetoed the session's major legislation, citing numerous problems with the Republican-written bills. He said he hopes to decide by Friday on the final major bill of the session, funding public works projects.

"Very irresponsible" was how Dayton described the legislative session.

He said the vetoes came because the legislation contained tax cuts for the rich and businesses, did not extend a state health insurance program, fell short on new education funding, lacked enough funds to combat opioid abuse and treatment, included a "watered down" elder abuse effort and about 50 other problems.

While there were good provisions in a 990-page spending and policy bill, Dayton said in a letter to legislators, "you knowingly prevented their enactment by inserting them into a bill containing policies and agency budget cuts that I had said I could not sign."

Dayton blamed what he considered bad Republican bills on politics.

"They wanted talking points," he said. "They wanted election campaign slogans."

Still, he added, "there are good features of the bill ... combined with a lot of junk."

The governor said he would not call lawmakers back into action. "No special session, they have had their chance."

Republicans fired back with anger, even from normally relaxed Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa.

"I am angry, I am deeply disappointed," said Gazelka, who until now has said he had good relations with Dayton.

Gazelka said he and Dayton exchanged texts Tuesday and planned to meet Wednesday about the bills. But the senator said he did not receive any advance notice of the vetoes.

"In the end, it feels impulsive, it feels vindictive," Gazelka said.

Gazelka and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans will feel the impact of the vetoes.

An event scheduled before the vetoes went ahead as planned, and dozens of Minnesotans with disabilities asked Dayton to reconsider the veto that will lead to a 7 percent cut in pay for those who care for them.

"Everywhere we turn, somebody is impacted because in the end we are too stubborn to help Minnesota," Gazelka said about the governor.

The large bill contained most of the Republican-controlled Legislature's spending provisions, along with hundreds of policy provisions with nothing to do with spending. The second bill Dayton rejected was one dealing with taxes and increasing school spending.

Minnesotans may most feel the tax bill veto. The legislation included provisions to match state law with new federal tax law so people would have a less complicated income tax season next year. It also would have cut or kept taxes static for most people.

Legislators said that 300,000 Minnesotans would pay higher taxes if no legislation were enacted, but Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly could not confirm that.

Other provisions in the vetoed bills included improved opioid and elder abuse programs, even though Dayton said there was not enough money. Also going down were added money for schools facing budget problems, tax aid for farmers and small businesses, and money to fix the problem-filled motor vehicle and registration software.

"The sky is not falling," Dayton said of his vetoes.

The Democratic governor is not running again, but all 134 House seats are on the Nov. 6 ballot.

"This could have been and should have been avoided," Dayton said, because he made it clear -- via more than 100 letters to legislators -- that many of the provisions in the two bills would result in a veto.

With the two vetoes, the final major bill Dayton is considering is a public works funding measure. He said he likely will announce his decision on it Friday. The bill contains $1.5 billion worth of projects ranging from fixing college roofs to building water treatment plants.

Senate Transportation Chairman Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, was glad Dayton will not call a special session.

"I'm so tired of his erratic behavior and petulant outbursts that I yearn constantly for a different governor we can have a mature conversation with," Newman tweeted.

The Dayton-Republican sparring match dominated the conversation.

"This was the worst managed legislative session I’ve ever seen," Dayton said.

Daudt fired back later: "This session wasn't a failure, our governor was a failure."

Nitrate delay moves ahead

ST. PAUL -- A law that has not been used before apparently will delay a controversial fertilizer rule.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday, May 23, that he told Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson to move ahead with a rule that would ban the use of nitrogen fertilizer on frozen ground in the fall. But Republican legislative leaders say they are moving ahead with their own initiative, using a little-known move that allows their agriculture committees to delay the rule.

"We in the legislative branch think we (the state) have gone too far with regulation," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said.

Dayton is concerned that nitrates from the fertilizer affect drinking water quality.

House and Senate agriculture committees voted before the Legislature adjourned late Sunday to use the law to delay the rule until the end of the 2019 legislative session.

The action was taken mostly as a way to convince Democrat Dayton to sign an agriculture policy bill that included a provision to allow counties to set rules on how much soil loss is allowed on a farm. Rural Republicans fear Minnesota officials will enact a statewide mandate, but they say local regulations are better.

That attempt at leverage failed because Dayton vetoed the ag policy bill.

The other reason to delay the rule regulating nitrates is because rural Republicans fear the administration may expand the draft rule. As it is, Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck, said, few farmers put nitrogen fertilizer on frozen ground.

Dayton said the legislative committee action infringes on executive branch duties, but Gazelka said the committees have "every right to do it." The law only requires committees to vote in favor of using the law; the matter does not need to be considered by the full Legislature.

The governor questioned whether the law is constitutional, but said he will not take the Legislature to court over it. However, he said, someone else may.

Anderson, chairman of a House agriculture committee, said a potential court challenge will not deter him. "We will cross that bridge when we come to it."

If Dayton had signed the agriculture bill, Anderson said, "none of this would have happened." The idea was to drop the delay if the bill had been signed.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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