Before we get to legislative news, I wish everyone an enjoyable Memorial Day as we pay tribute to the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice in serving the freedoms and liberties that are the foundation of our great nation. Your legacy holds a special place in my heart.
As for news from the Capitol, there’s no other way to say it: Gov. Mark Dayton’s partisan gamesmanship in vetoing two crucial, bipartisan bills is going to harm millions of Minnesotans. It borders on recklessness.
Count me among those who were holding out at least a glimmer of faith the governor would put petty politics aside and sign the omnibus tax/education and budget bills. On Wednesday, the governor revealed what his intentions must have been all along when he said he would veto those bills. His message was divisive and loaded with politically charged rhetoric, lacking any real cogent message regarding his objections. His response to the press was pathetic when asked him to cite reasons he vetoed the bills.
The Legislature did all it could to work with this governor in good faith, overlooking his erratic tendencies along the way. In fact, we conceded roughly 70 percent of his demands and abandoned virtually all of the most contentious provisions.
Because of the governor’s vetoes, the first income tax reduction in two decades benefiting low- and middle-class earners goes out the window. Up to $84 million in new funding for schools – $225 million in total when flexibility measures are added – will not be realized, along with the funding we approved to improve school safety. A $16 million appropriation to fight the opioid epidemic will not be there to save lives. Additional funding for special education and money to prevent those who care for the disabled from suffering a 7-percent cut also were blocked by the governor.
The governor even vetoed reforms that would help families protect their aging loved ones through increased transparency, improved accountability and elder abuse prevention. We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what the governor has cost citizens throughout the state.
At least nothing the governor did this week can erase the historic successes of the 2017 session, when we provided the largest tax cut in nearly two decades, the largest investment in roads and bridges in state history without a gas tax increase, major funding for education and reforms to lower health care costs and boost health care choices for Minnesota families.
The best thing about today is that we are one day closer to Jan. 8, when the Legislature will re-convene in St. Paul committed to doing more good work and with a new governor in place. The next person to hold that office almost certainly will be an improvement over Dayton and his legacy as that of someone willing to skin Minnesotans at all cost to claim a political pelt.