Gov. Mark Dayton was in remarkably buoyant spirits this morning as he sat down at a desk to sign the bills that end Minnesota’s government shutdown.
Joined by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, whose signature also was needed to make the signings official, Dayton used a different pen to sign each of the bills.
“This way no one will know which pen signed the tax bills,” said Dayton, with a smile.
Of course, governors often used multiple pens for signings and later present them to people who worked on the bills.
But this case, a resolution to the budget crisis that no one seems to like, was different from most signing ceremonies.
“I don’t know if anyone will take them,” said Dayton of the ceremonial pens.
The governor continued to take two directions in signing off on the legislation that puts Minnesota back to work.
He takes responsibility for the stuff he considers good: the bonding bill, removal of controversial policy provisions in the bills, a reduction in cuts in huge areas such as the Human Services budget from what Republicans had offered.
But he also points his finger at Republicans for the stuff he considers bad: the fund shifting and borrowing used to pull the deal together, as opposed to his preference of increasing income taxes on the wealthy.
The budgeting gimmicks that were used to increase revenues is “the Republicans’ fault,” Dayton said.
But then he turned to the $34.2 billion “cuts” budget that the Republicans had passed and that he vetoed at the end of the regular session.
“I think that budget would be even more irresponsible,” he said.
But he also had nice things to say about the Republican leadership and future cooperative efforts.
Despite their fundamental differences in funding government, Dayton said he and his administration worked well and “respectfully” with the Republican leaders who put together this deal in the last four days.
He said he looks forward to working with the GOP on government reforms. He’s already asked one Republican senator, John Howe, to start working with other legislators on coming up with fundamental tax reforms. (Howe is a big supporter of the idea of an expanded sales tax and lower income tax rates.) .
The governor was asked if he believed the state’s reputation suffered because of the shutdown.
“It certainly wasn’t helpful,” Dayton said, “but with $1.4 billion in cuts and even half those policy issues they wanted, it would have been worse.”
He said there were four good reasons that the deal was worth doing:
• “It gets Minnesota back to work. It was imperative somebody step forward and break the ice.”
• “It preserves a $35.7 billion budget,” which he said “so many Minnesotans depend on.”
• “The bonding bill will put as many as 14,000 Minnesotans back to work.”
• The policy issues “not in the bills” are as important as many of the items that are in the bills.
Of course, Dayton could not escape the signing event without a question about the Vikings’ stadium.
Earlier in the week, he’d hinted that a Vikings deal might have to wait until the next regular session. But this morning, the governor sounded as if he might be inclined to call another special session sometime this fall to deal with the explosive issue.
At the moment, he said, a Vikings bill is not ready. A source of revenue from the state, he said, has not been nailed down.
“When it gets ready,” he said of a stadium bill, “I’ll seriously consider a special session.”
Meantime, though, Dayton said he hopes state parks can open as soon as Thursday.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.