SAINT PAUL— Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton could be headed for a legal showdown after the governor line item-vetoed all appropriations for both the Minnesota House and Senate …
SAINT PAUL— Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton could be headed for a legal showdown after the governor line item-vetoed all appropriations for both the Minnesota House and Senate for next year. If not resolved, the move would force the Legislature to lay off all staff beginning July 1.
Dayton took the unusual step in response to what he called a “sneak attack” by Republican leaders buried in a state government funding bill. “At the last minute, the Legislature snuck language into the state government bill that would hold hostage the Department of Revenue appropriation in this bill to my signature on the Taxes bill,” Dayton noted in a letter to legislators announcing his line-item veto.
Dayton opposed many of the provisions in the tax bill, but felt he could not veto the measure without risking the layoff of the 1,300 employees at the Department of Revenue— including workers at the revenue center in Ely.
Dayton signed all nine of the government funding bills sent to him by the Legislature, in order to head off a protracted budget fight and possible government shutdown. It had seemed his signatures would end the budget wrangling for this year, but Dayton’s surprise move suggests the newest state budget is not a done deal. And it suggests that the governor will approach any future negotiations with a renewed sense of skepticism towards GOP leaders.
“I consider this provision, snuck into the State Government bill without my knowledge, to be a reprehensible sneak attack, which shatters whatever trust we achieved during the session,” Dayton wrote in a letter to House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. “Now I understand why you made it almost impossible for my staff and me to obtain drafts of your bills’ language, sometimes not until minutes before they were brought to the floor for passage.”
Dayton is calling on GOP leaders to renegotiate five provisions stuck in a number of the budget bills this year. In particular, he wants to eliminate a number of tax reductions that the GOP approved on tobacco products. “Especially galling, and indefensible, is the tax break for premium cigars, at a cost of $6.9 million over the next two bienniums,” Dayton wrote in his letter to legislators. At a press conference on Wednesday, the governor also took issue with an added exemption to Minnesota’s estate tax and a freeze on commercial/industrial property taxes, which he said will cost the state treasury over $1 billion over ten years. “I will not willingly allow Minnesota to be put back into the kind of situation that I inherited,” he said, noting that he came into office in 2011 facing a $6.2 million budget shortfall.
Dayton also wants to revise a change in the state licensing rules for public school teachers, which he said threatens to undermine the quality of teachers in the state.
Republican leaders told the Associated Press that they have no intention of renegotiating the tax bill or any other provisions and that a court challenge of Dayton’s action is likely. House Speaker Kurt Daudt called the provision that sparked Dayton’s action an “insurance policy” to guarantee his signature on a tax bill that Republicans knew he would be tempted to veto.
Republicans say that Dayton’s action is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. “I think this action by the governor really is just one last-ditch effort to try to get his way,” Daudt said, according to the AP. “I would expect legal action forthcoming.”
But Dayton defended his decision, and said that state law provides him with unrestricted authority to line-item veto any appropriation. He said, however, that his authority is limited to appropriations, not policy matters, which prevented him from vetoing the tax cuts and policy provisions in the tax and education bills.
While he acknowledged that his actions are likely to undermine his relationship with legislators, he said that “the people of Minnesota are my foremost concern.”