After negotiations falter, Dayton vows to veto ‘every one’ of Republicans’ budget bills

MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Gov. Mark Dayton: "We each have very different views about what’s best for Minnesotans."

It’s practically a rite of spring in St. Paul now: The trees blossom, the birds come back — and the workings inside the Minnesota Capitol go dark.

That’s what happened this week, as negotiations over the state’s two-year, roughly $45 billion state budget went from plodding steadily toward a resolution to what seemed like a sudden break, between the Republicans who control the Legislature and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Those tensions set off a series of moves by Republican leaders that started late Monday and went into Tuesday evening, as GOP lawmakers worked to send their budget bills to Dayton’s desk — without a compromise. 

In response, the governor assured reporters Tuesday that he will “veto them all,” leaving everyone in the dark as to what happens next.

The two parties have less than two weeks until May 22, their constitutionally imposed deadline to adjourn the 2017 session. If they don’t finish on time, Dayton can call legislators back into a special session to finish budget bills. But if that doesn’t happen before July 1 — the start of the next fiscal year — state government operations will go into automatic shutdown mode.

It was gonna be different this time

Like most sessions, lawmakers convened in January saying what they almost always say: that they didn’t want things to end this year with closed-door negotiations, late-night maneuvers and deals pushed until the final hours. That it was going to be different this year.

And it was, for a time. Lawmakers bumped up deadlines to get major budget work done and made it to negotiations with the governor earlier than usual. But, as in most sessions, the drama happened anyway. 

“It’s had different forms,” Dayton said Tuesday, remarking on how recent sessions have all concluded with last-minute blowups. “We each have very different views about what’s best for Minnesotans. Minnesotans should expect that we’re going to have these very significant differences; the question is how we are going to resolve them.”

The rift came after Dayton and legislative leaders had spent the previous five days in meetings discussing a budget deal, usually emerging from those discussions with few details to share but generally positive remarks about the process.  They described talks as “productive” and “cordial,” even though lawmakers still had major differences to work out.

Those differences largely center on what to do with the state’s $1.5 billion budget surplus. Republicans want tax cuts — something north of $1 billion — though they also want to trim spending on health and human services and state government administration. The governor is proposing to raise spending on things like health care, education and state government.

On Monday, budget negotiations moved into the horse-trading phase. Dayton made an offer on four smaller budget areas — public safety, higher education, economic development and agriculture — reducing his proposed total spending by about $74 million, he said.

After the meeting, House Speaker Kurt Daudt emerged and said he’d hoped things were moving faster, but they were still making progress. “Things at the Legislature never move as quickly as I would like them to, and I’m sure the public probably feels the same way, but we are working hard and we are working well together.”

House Speaker Kurt Daudt
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
After the meeting, House Speaker Kurt Daudt emerged and said he’d hoped things were moving faster, but they were still making progress.

But behind the scenes, things started moving very quickly. Republicans left the meeting with the governor and went into meetings with rank-and-file legislators. Later that evening, they began preparing their own budget bills for a vote, with or without a compromise in hand. On Tuesday morning, Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka said negotiations had slowed down over the weekend and the offers presented by Dayton on Monday were “unacceptable.” 

“The steps were so small on the smallest bills that we didn’t know how we could possibly get there,” Gazelka said. “I think they were sincere first offers, but they were unacceptable and would not lead to getting done on time.”

Daudt said they were worried Dayton was “slow-walking” a deal because he would benefit politically the longer negotiations take. “The governor gains leverage if he pushes us to the end,” Daudt said, describing the move to vote on their budget as a “backup plan.” 

Republicans and Dayton met again Tuesday afternoon, with Republicans presenting an offer on all of their budget bills, reducing their tax cut proposal from $1.13 billion to $1 billion and spending more on state government and health and human services. Dayton countered that with another offer on the four budget bills discussed the day before, coming down a total of $122 million.

Republicans left the meeting frustrated they weren’t making progress. Within hours, they began taking up their budget bills on the House and Senate floors. 

‘I will veto every one of those bills’

What does this all mean for the end of session? At the very least, the move delays further negotiations between Dayton and Republicans. It will take several days for legislators to pass all of their budget bills and send them to Dayton. The governor said that he will veto all of the budget proposals. 

“They should know that I will veto every one of those bills, which will leave us with the same differences several days from now that we face today,” Dayton said. “Their actions will make it much more difficult for them to fulfill their constitutional responsibility to send me budget bills, which I can sign, by May 22.”

Dayton added that the actions of the GOP leadership, in the middle of discussions with his office, have changed the tone of negotiations going forward. “All the flurry of activity over the last 12 hours without any discussion with us, without any forewarning,” Dayton said. “It certainly changes the tenor, for sure.”

Republicans and governor are not unfamiliar with discord: They went into a 20-day government shutdown over the budget in 2011, and the last two sessions under divided government have ended in acrimony, special session talks and plenty of unfinished business.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka
MinnPost photo by Briana Bierschbach
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka: “The steps were so small on the smallest bills that we didn’t know how we could possibly get there.”

For now, all sides say they still want to work together, even if their actions are sending mixed signals about whether that can actually happen. “I’ve done this before and I’ve been involved in a few of the blowups before the breakthrough, and that does happen,” Daudt said Tuesday. “I don’t think this is [a blowup]. We want to work with the governor, we want to get this solved.” 

For his part, Dayton remained open to meeting with Republicans on Wednesday, even as they continued to pass budget bills he plans to veto. Dayton’s daily public schedule, which he releases to reporters, read that Wednesday is “intentionally left open to be responsive to the legislative process.”

If that doesn’t happen, perhaps they’ll talk about it Friday. That’s when the governor and legislative leaders are scheduled to be together on a boat in the middle of the Mississippi River in St. Cloud for the state’s fishing opener.

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Comments (12)

  1. Submitted by Gene Nelson on 05/10/2017 - 10:37 am.

    Todays repubs….GRRRRRR

    I find it interesting that the vast majority of worst K-12 educational systems and poverty levels are in repub states and that it is repubs who constantly work to undermine aid to people, while claiming Christian values, which totally ignores Christ’s message to help the poor and needy.
    It looks as if we’re in our third year of repub obstructionism as they attempt to undermine investments into our state and people…but repubs always seem to have room for tax cuts.
    It is also interesting to see the difference between two states…MN & WI. We elected Dayton and got top 5 economic growth and a surplus. WI elected a repub and has slow economic growth and real deficits and a declining educational systems as well as jobs lost. You will find similar issues with other repub states, with KS being the worst.
    Another interesting aspect between these two states is with their roads and bridges. We have around 50% of our roads and bridges needing maintenance, while WI is over 70%. This came from the StarTribune the other day.
    Dems invest in our state and people while todays repubs do not. Shameful!

    • Submitted by Mark Kulda on 05/10/2017 - 02:52 pm.

      What about Chicago?

      Chicago has one of the absolute worst K-12 educational systems in the world and the poverty levels are sky high. But its not run by Republicans. And, it has one of the worst crime rates.

      • Submitted by Derek Thompson on 05/10/2017 - 03:30 pm.

        What about Chichago?

        Republicans fought integration, drove freeways through the city, and sent jobs out of the city which left large swaths of the city were as majority poor minority neighborhoods. You wonder why these people vote Democrat when their neighborhoods were left to rot and they only time they are mentioned by Republicans when they are told to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and are scapegoated as welfare queens. It will take decades to undo the damage done to American cities.

        • Submitted by Mark Kulda on 05/10/2017 - 05:12 pm.

          I wish what you said was even close to being true

          As a Chicago native (and anybody who has ever lived there can attest), the Republicans have very little control there at all. They had nothing to do with integration and surely had almost nothing to do with where the highways were placed (which were vitally necessary for commerce there) and if anything tried to create jobs, not “send them out of the city.” The neighborhoods (including mine) are rotting because the people who live there don’t take care of them…not because of any political party’s actions.

    • Submitted by Ross Reishus on 05/11/2017 - 05:23 pm.

      Agreed Gene

      Thank you for pointing out the glaring differences between neighboring states. Minnesota also used to look to Wisconsin AND Iowa for education leadership, and that too is now in the reverse with Minnesota leading in almost all metrics, with WI and IA far behind.

  2. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 05/10/2017 - 01:10 pm.

    It’s not just the money ….

    Republicans inserted more than 600 policy items into the budget bills. Many of these were intended is poison pills, using the budget to drive these policies forward. They included policies and laws which had no hearings or public discussion. Dayton is being the adult in the room. Dayton is being the adult in the room. Republicans are playing the games. And those games include things that affect in a very real way peoples lives. Most of these games are being played the set themselves up for the next election. This shows how little regard they have for actual governing, rather it’s all about beating your opponent. Just like their pathetic excuse of a president

    • Submitted by Mark Kulda on 05/10/2017 - 02:53 pm.

      Both parties do it

      Putting policy provisions in budget bills is a bipartisan maneuver. The DFL did it when they were in control, too, so it is absolutely nothing new and you can’t now criticize the GOP for doing exactly what the DFL used to do.

      • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 05/11/2017 - 08:43 am.


        It’s never been to this extent, and your neatly ignoring the placing of bills with no public hearing. The only time that happens is in Republican control in this state.

      • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 05/11/2017 - 03:29 pm.

        Again, the republicans are NOT in control. Therefore,

        The governor’s vetoes of the “budget bills” and the resulting govt shutdowns is completely the fault of republicans. Policy bs has nothing to do with budget bills. Only republicans have trouble with this process.

      • Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/11/2017 - 06:56 pm.

        Can You Spell

        “False Equivalency?”

        I thought not.

  3. Submitted by Ross Reishus on 05/11/2017 - 05:07 pm.

    Shutdown differences

    The DFL lawmakers and Governors hold firm in their part of a shutdown, to protect the voters, the environment, the public schools, public health and social services. The GOP lawmakers and Governors hold firm their positions to protect the banks, oil companies, telecom companies, corporate farms and their associated industries, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance giants, for-profit private schools, and giant companies that want to lower their own taxes while eroding worker wages, worker safety, and be able to treat workers like crap. Oh and they want to pollute with impunity too. Maybe this is not the case in Chicago, but this is not Chicago.

  4. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/12/2017 - 10:55 am.


    I’m not sure what to call it, maybe it’s ironic? When Republican try to prove they can “govern” by passing legislation (the minimum requirement for any legislative body) and then throwing that legislation at the executive to veto, what do you call that? I mean sure, it’s absurd, but it’s an absurd display of the inability to govern masquerading as governance.

    The whole idea of legislation isn’t to just pass stuff and dare the Governor to veto it, that’s NOT governing. The divided government idea is that legislators work with the executive to pass legislation that the executive will sign. Republicans actually seem to think their job is to pass legislation the Governor will veto, little backwards that eh? This is just another example of Republicans normalizing disfunction and paralyzing government rather than working the government. And now watch, they’ll blame Dayton for refusing to sign the crappy legislation they sent him. Republicans don’t seem to understand that special sessions are supposed to be: “special”, not routine. Because they’re the Constitution guys don’t ya know.

    The conclusion is simply inescapable, and it’s not a partisan attack. Republicans simply have no capacity for governance, compromise, or common sense. Not only that, but Republican math as usual, is fuzzier than a fuzzy bear wading through a bunch of fuzzy stuff in a fuzzy fog. If Dayton actually signed this crap we’d be stuck in another Republican manufactured budget crises.

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