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Gov. Dayton to veto budget bills, resume negotiations next week

By Jonathan Mohr
Gov. Mark Dayton speaks about the end of session process at a May 11 news conference. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday he will veto the five budget bills he’s so far received from the Legislature but expects face-to-face negotiations with legislative leaders to resume Monday.

His remarks came during a press briefing where he indicated a willingness to continue talks, while accusing Republicans of following a strategy that sets up a “blame game” if the sides are unable to reach an agreement before the legislative session ends May 22.  

“That’s part of their tactic,” Dayton said. “They’re going to send me these bills, rather than negotiate them and send me bills that I would be able to sign. They’re sending the bills so they can say ‘See, we completed our work on time.’”

Dayton said Minnesotans want the government to do its job rather than have “their whole summer put in jeopardy” by a potential government shutdown.

The governor said he is currently working on veto letters for the five omnibus bills the Legislature has already passed – agriculture, state government, environment, health and human services and E-12 education – and will deliver those letters Friday morning.

Dayton had said the Legislature must pass all of its budget bills before further negotiations could resume. However, because the Senate has been unable to act the past few days due to the absence of Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester) who is away attending to her ill father, he is prepared to move forward.

The Senate must still vote on five budget bills but, with only a 34-33 majority, Senate Republicans need all members present before taking action on potentially controversial bills.

Budget negotiations stalled Tuesday after the sides exchanged offers but didn’t find common ground. Frustrated by the lack of progress, House and Senate Republicans then began to pass their budget bills, although Dayton had threatened to veto them.

Dayton said he’d asked Republicans to get specific with their proposed budget cuts, telling them Tuesday to come back prepared to make an offer with specific numbers that detailed where those cuts would be made. “They backed out at that point of the negotiations, and I think that’s one of the reasons,” Dayton said.

The governor said that although he has a good relationship with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) and House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown), the Republicans are most concerned with the tax and transportation bills and “don’t know” or “care” about the others.

“We’re dealing with a level of absurdity here and a level of irresponsible indifference to the needs of Minnesota,” Dayton said. “And it’s really shocking.”

The governor said there is still “plenty of time” to reach a budget agreement “if we’re going to focus on the budget,” but if the Legislature focuses instead on the more than 600 policy provisions he says are in the bills, “we’ll be here until January.” 

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