It took Gov. Mark Dayton all of an afternoon to veto this session’s first piece of passed legislation.
Despite a resounding call for bipartisanship in Wednesday’s State of the State address, Dayton today vetoed a high-profile Republican bill that would have cut $900 million from next biennium’s projected $6.2 billion budget deficit.
The measure also directed state agencies to trim $100 million from their budgets before the end of this fiscal year.
The governor’s quick action prompted House Majority Leader Matt Dean to say, “It would’ve been nice if he’d slept on it, right?”
The bill, which passed through the Legislature along partisan lines this afternoon, aimed to continue spending cuts in Local Government Aid, higher education and health and human services that were enacted last budget cycle.
Dayton, a critic of the legislation since its inception, said his veto stemmed from “three strong objections”: inevitable property tax increases, Republicans’ inaccurate assumptions about state agency cash reserves left in this biennium and its “piecemeal approach” to balancing the budget.
“I didn’t invite this legislation,” Dayton said. “I think it underlines that the Legislature is acting with extreme rashness.”
According to Dayton, the measure would result in a $428 million property tax increase over the next biennium, an assertion that Sen. Claire Robling disputed, pointing to cities and counties that didn’t add levies after last year’s cuts. Republican legislative leaders quickly shot back at Dayton for the veto.
From their reaction, it sounds like working together will be a bit harder in the future.
“We’re going to have a clash,” said the GOP’s Geoff Michel, chairman of the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee. “Apparently the Pawlenty veto pen still has some ink in it.”
Robling, R-Jordan, the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, echoed other GOP leaders in calling the bill an important step toward tackling the mountainous state shortfall.
“Have we ever seen a budget deficit like this?” Robling asked. “These are historic times.”
Still, Dayton said he agreed with portions of the Republican proposal — up to a point. In a letter directed to state agency heads, Dayton asked for a review of remaining agency funds and for them to identify any possible cost savings for this biennium.
But, he called the bill’s $100 million directive not only unconstitutional, but also said the amount was “purely fictitious.”
The DFL Party quickly issued a statement praising the veto and commending Dayton for standind up “for middle-class Minnesotans today.”
The party said: “The Republicans promised reform and an all-cuts budget solution. But this bill was far from a solution and it would certainly raise taxes … It’s just more of the same flawed policies of the past that squeezed our middle class with higher property taxes, higher tuition, and higher fees.”