Despite budget progress, special legislative session looms

Kyle Potter

As Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republican-controlled state Legislature work tirelessly to agree on a budget before the session ends in five days, the two parties have hit an impasse that will likely drag them into a special session.

The DFL governor and Republicans in the Legislature are fighting about how to close the state’s $5 billion deficit – through strictly cutting funding as Republicans have suggested, or through a combination of cuts and new taxes, as Dayton’s plan outlines.

In January, Dayton recommended taxing the state’s wealthiest residents to generate $3.4 billion in revenue. Earlier this week, he sought compromise by slashing it to a $1.8 billion tax plan on the top 2 percent of Minnesotan income earners. Republicans responded with a resounding “no!”

“Whether it’s a half a tax increase, a whole tax increase, or a quarter tax increase … it’s a bad idea,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, during a press conference after Republican leaders met with Dayton. 

The House voted down Dayton’s budget plans Tuesday largely along party lines. Just one Democrat, Rep. Gene Pelowski from Winona, joined every Republican in voting against the governor’s plan.

Though progress on budget bills has been slow since session began in January, bills started to trickle through the Senate and House of Representatives this week. Dayton promised he will not fold under the pressure, and remains committed to instating some tax increases to tackle the deficit.

“I will be rejecting the bills and sending them back to leadership,” Dayton told reporters Wednesday.

Even if lawmakers jam through the remaining budget bills before the Legislature adjourns on Monday night, Dayton’s veto likely awaits them.

If the two parties can’t reach an agreement, a special session will be called to finish the budget. State government would begin to shut down July 1 if plans aren’t finalized in time.

Dayton signed the agriculture funding bill on April 15 – the only budget bill he has approved thus far.