As negotiations stall over special session, Dayton faces decision on tax bill

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith and Gov. Mark Dayton shown during a June 1 press conference.

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.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
House Speaker Kurt Daudt

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.”

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Jim Million on 06/06/2016 - 09:22 am.

    The Dayton Discord

    Clearly not about typos.

  2. Submitted by Ray Lewis on 06/06/2016 - 12:17 pm.

    Gov’s deadline for signing?

    I once asked Gov. Quie how much a special session costs Minnesotans;
    How many, and how much are part-time legislaturers collecting in per diem payments?
    Are lobbyists earning OT if their contracts are just for the session?

    I hope they are having serious negotiations today if the Governor’s deadline for signing the tax bill is before midnight tonight. Voters should also ask who should pick up the costs when their “last minute strategy” breaks down?

  3. Submitted by Joel Stegner on 06/06/2016 - 12:55 pm.


    Somehow I Daudt that Republicans are going to compromise. The $100 wording problem in the tax bill is their problem – they wrote it – and if they had some pride in their work, they would simply agree to the special session and tend to unfinished business. It apparently is too much for them to handle when something far more important to them, getting re-elected is on their minds. As a hiring manager, I would be critical of am employee or work team that does fix its mistakes or show some willing to do more to better serve their customers. After a while, stubbornness and sloppiness would make me want to find someone more motivated to do the job.

    • Submitted by Michael Hess on 06/06/2016 - 01:47 pm.

      I believe they would too…

      In fact I believe Daudt has said they would fix it that way but the Governor has attached a long list of non-negotiable spending demands to the privilege of a special session.

      If you read the article the special session can only happen if the Governor calls it, and he will only call it if both chambers promise, pinkie swear a blood oath to enact his list of spends.

      It’s an interesting question what he would do were the error not in the bill. Sign it or continue to hold it hostage for new spending?

      This is just another disappointing chapter in a disappointing session where we learn again that Governor and Legislators, DFLs and Republicans, are generally incapable of getting anything done together.

  4. Submitted by Bill Willy on 06/06/2016 - 02:52 pm.

    King of the Word Keepers speaks (again)

    “. . . 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 . . .”

    So sayeth the Reverend Word K. Daudt, the undisputed Champion of Doing Right By Each and Every Person in the state of Minnesota.

    So sayeth the one who — when the Governor called for a special session in November of 2015 to ensure none of the unemployed outstate Minnesotans of the Iron Range would run out of income at the beginning of 2016 — said he was confused by the Governor’s proposal but assured every Minnesotan that something would be worked out so no one on the Iron Range would suffer that fate.

    So sayeth the one who kept saying that (“I’m confused, as must be the Governor, if he thinks there’s a need for a special session”) for nearly five more months — all the while assuring all Minnesotans that his beloved outstate friends on the Range would be helped the moment the regular session began — when he and his Republican brethren were indeed able to extend that helping hand just prior to the beginning of April after he was able to finally help the Governor and Senate come to their senses and realize the pressing need to provide Business Interests with $300 million in unemployment tax relief in exchange for the $38 or $39 million the unemployed (non-hostage) Minnesotans on the Range were STILL in need of (to pay the rent and feed their families).

    So sayeth the fearless leader of those who, in the year of the $900 million surplus, did all in their power to starveth the Beastly Forces of feather-bedding, slack and blatant cronyism hiding out (and getting fat) in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the offices of the Minnesota Investment and Job Creation Funds, the Minnesota Security Hospital and the Minnesota Sex Offender Program, by depriving them of the nearly $200 million they (must have) collectively lied about by saying that was the amount they needed to do the work they’ve been made responsible for doing by the legislature.

    So sayeth the one who agreed that what was needed to complete the year’s most important, long-overdue, long-neglected task was the dedication of $600 million per year for 10 years that, he assurethed everyone in the state (countless times over two long years), would be codified and enacted into law via the Comprehensive Republican Transportation Bill that would not rely on ANY tax increases whatsoever to fix, maintain and improve the transportation infrastructure utilized daily by almost all Minnesotans.

    So saideth the one who failed (totally) to delivereth said Comprehensive Republican Transportation Bill, but, instead, sought to include $275 million of ONE-TIME (surplus) money in the “transportation package” tucked into the (equally failed) House Bonding Bill . . . An amount that MAY have been enough for, “We dealt with transportation without raising the gas tax or wasting your money on metro area light rail!” campaign efforts, but an amount that was $325 million less than he agreed was required for just the FIRST year and $5 BILLION, $725 million short of the agreed upon overall necessity that was sure to be delivered by the Tax-Free Comprehensive Republican Transportation Bill he had so often spoketh of to all Minnesotans.

    So sayeth the one who hath promised to do what is right for Minnesotans mightily and often but hath only delivered a steady stream of failed pieces of legislation capped off by back-to-back embarrassingly ugly and fruitless very-end-of-session debateless debates in the Minnesota House of Representatives that have resulted in the need for Special Sessions during each of the two years of his and Joyce Peppin’s control and leadership of that institution.

    “Your word has to mean something in St. Paul.”


  5. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 06/06/2016 - 04:38 pm.

    The House

    Pulled many last minute tricks with the tax bill, as well as bonding, transport and LCCMR, all intended to stuff in their ideological proposals they dare not hold hearings on. Given this behavior, the governor is prudent to hold his ground. Last session, Daudt got most of what his caucus wanted last year with the help of Bakk, this session the Senate held together. The Republicans are falling into disarray with internal fighting and Tea Party challenges from the right- Daudt and Hackbarth are challenged and Macnamara just quit with a right wing challenge. The longer this goes on, the more their caucus falls apart. Couldn’t happen to nicer people.

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