Dayton vetoes 2 major budget bills

Published 9:55 am Monday, May 25, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed two major budget bills ahead of a Saturday night deadline for final action on measures that passed before the end of the legislative session, but he proposed a temporary tax cut in return for a scaled back version of his proposal for universal preschool for all 4-year-olds.

Mark Dayton

Mark Dayton

While Dayton signed a state government finance bill, he vetoed an agriculture-and-environment budget bill that contained his top environmental initiative, a requirement that farmers plant buffer strips to keep agricultural chemicals out of drainage ditches, streams and other waters. It also included money to combat the bird flu crisis.

The bill came under criticism from environmentalists for several other provisions that Dayton cited as “destructive” during a news conference in St. Paul, including the elimination of the citizens board that has overseen the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for 38 years.

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The Democratic governor also vetoed a jobs-and-energy budget bill. He said it provided insufficient funding for the Department of Commerce, the Bureau of Mediation Services, the Workers Compensation Court of Appeals, rural

broadband and programs for the disabled. He also said it created disincentives to the use of wind and solar power. He pointed out that about a fifth of the rural broadband money in the bill would have gone to one community, the central Minnesota city of Annandale. But the bill also contained unemployment benefits for laid-off Iron Range steelworkers.

Dayton vetoed the main public school funding bill Thursday because lawmakers left out his universal preschool proposal.

However, he offered a $260 million, one-year temporary income tax cut if lawmakers will approve $250 million in additional money for public schools, including $100 million for preschool that would go only to districts that choose to apply for it. He said he would provide more details Tuesday when he meets with House Speaker Kurt Daudt. He said Daudt and other legislative leaders he reached Saturday were interested but noncommittal.

“I wouldn’t agree to the tax cut without education at a comparable level. … This is an effort to give them something that I believe they want in return for something that I want,” he said.

The two vetoed bills were assembled by leaders of the GOP majority in the Minnesota House and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor majority in the Senate during the closing hours of the session without much input from Dayton. The governor said he’ll insist that the buffer strip and bird flu proposals pass during the special session, and that the jobs bill provide more funding for the programs he highlighted.

Republican criticism of the vetoes was swift.

“It seems the governor’s version of compromise is his way or the highway. Moving forward from this veto, which blindsided us, will be difficult,” said Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, who chairs the House environment committee.

“Playing politics with the lives of farmers who have been devastated by the avian flu is simply wrong,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Dave Baker, R-Willmar, whose district’s turkey growers have been hard hit by the disease. “Minnesotans chose shared government last November and expect legislators as well as the governor to compromise and work together on the issues facing our state.”

Dayton also signed new rules Saturday governing how police use automated license-plate readers. Location data from motorists’ movements can be kept only 60 days unless the information is relevant to a criminal case.

A date and venue for the special session have not been set. It can’t be held at the state Capitol because major renovations will keep lawmakers out. All pieces of the next budget must be in place by July 1 to avoid a partial government shutdown.