Gov. Mark Dayton’s office received so many letters that he decided to hold a press conference Friday instead of responding to them all.
The letters in question were regarding an estimated $100 million problem with the tax cut bill passed by lawmakers on May 22, of of the final nights of the 2016 session. Tucked inside the 277-page bill, legislators accidentally included an “or” in place of an “and,” and the result could expand a tax cut meant specifically for bingo halls to include all establishments selling pull-tabs.
In a letter to Republicans, Dayton said the error could not be fixed without calling a special session of the Legislature. Without a full vote from lawmakers to fix the statute, the language could wind up in the courts, he said.
Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt responded with his own letter, saying the one-word error can be remedied without a special session, via a provision that lets lawmakers clarify their intent. Republican House Taxes Chairman Greg Davids sent a similar letter to Dayton laying out possible options. And then Senate Minority Leader David Hann also sent a letter — this one to all four caucus leaders, asking them to sign yet another letter stating their true intent for the law.
That’s a lot of letters.
But in modern-day politics, letters generally aren’t a sign of progress. And the back-and-forth between lawmakers didn’t bring them any closer to resolving the issue with the tax bill, which Dayton isn’t expected to sign Monday — a move that would mean its failure via the constitutional provision known as a pocket veto.
With that, tax cuts for college students, families with child-care costs and property tax reductions to help construct a Major League Soccer stadium in St. Paul will not become law.
“I’ve received too many letters to respond to each one individually so I wanted to restate my position here,” Dayton said Friday. “I stand by my firm position that the correction necessary for the $101 million error in the tax bill has to be corrected by the Legislature in a special session.”
Legislative leaders and the governor are also nowhere near resolving other outstanding issues in the aftermath of the contentious 10-week session, including a transportation plan and a package of construction projects. Dayton laid out a long list of terms last week if he’s to call lawmakers back, including $182 million in bonding projects, $75 million in new spending over the next year and funding for transit in the metro area.
But negotiations seemed to go backwards throughout the week. Republicans accused Dayton of holding the tax bill “hostage” until he got things he wanted out of the transportation and bonding bill. The Minnesota Jobs Coalition, a Republican-aligned independent campaign spending group, launched a digital campaign to try to push Dayton to sign the tax bill.
Even as lawmakers continued to send letters and hold press conferences, the governor and legislative leaders — except for Hann — met only once on Friday to discuss a possible special session. They didn’t make much progress.
“During today’s meeting, I offered to call members back to St. Paul for special session on Monday specifically to deal with his tax concerns,” Daudt said in a statement after the meeting. “The governor recently indicated he would not hold the tax bill ‘hostage’ for other things, and I am going to hold him to his word — your word has to mean something in St. Paul. I’m urging the governor to do what is right for Minnesotans and sign the tax bill. I don’t believe he will veto a bipartisan tax relief package over one word that can easily be fixed multiple ways.”