Dayton, Daudt head into session with 'damaged relationship,' with no health insurance help on its way
ST. PAUL—The two top Minnesota political leaders will approach the legislative session in January with a "damaged relationship" following a failure to agree on a special session slated for Monday. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, made the comment Monday, Dec. 19, while talking to the media about the upcoming legislative session.
The possibility of a special session to address transportation, public works projects and skyrocketing costs of health care dissipated Friday when Daudt failed to reach an agreement with Gov. Mark Dayton during a tense negotiating session in public.
"I have done a lot to reach out to him and build a personal relationship," Daudt said at a Forum News Service pre-session briefing with House and Senate leaders. "My impression right now is that I value the personal relationship more than he does."
- Video of the legislative pre-session briefing is available here.
Dayton accepted an invitation to the briefing but did not attend due to illness.
For the years they have worked together, Dayton and Daudt have said they have a good relationship and like each other. However, that began to change after the 2016 Legislature adjourned in May. Negotiations about a special session became tense, and observers noticed a freeze in their relations in recent weeks.
Dayton's rhetoric has ramped up as discussions continued about dealing with tax, public works and health insurance bills in a special session, blaming Daudt and House Republicans for lack of interest in helping Minnesotans.
On Friday, the governor walked out of a final special session negotiating meeting, saying Daudt had no interest in providing state aid to people with soaring health insurance bills. Newcomer Paul Gazelka, incoming Senate majority leader, R-Nisswa, said he hopes to "lower the tone" of bipartisan contention amplified by elections.
Sen. Tom Bakk, D-Cook, who will be Senate minority leader, and Daudt appear to have a good relationship and Bakk said he and Gazelka never have exchanged a cross word. While a failure to reach an agreement may signal a tumultuous session, Gazelka said a "totally different makeup" of the state's financial health will help legislators avoid repeating the government shutdown of 2011—the last time Republicans held the majority with Dayton in office. He said the current $1.4 billion surplus this year is "not the same crisis" legislators dealt with six years ago as the state suffered a $600 million shortfall. Despite Gazelka's call for peace, Daudt voiced criticism of the governor throughout the briefing.
He called Dayton's plan to address increased health insurance costs "uninspiring" and said it does "the absolutely bare minimum," leaving Minnesotans without relief until March. House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, D-Brooklyn Park, said the plan is "better than nothing at all."
"We've never seen a counteroffer," she said. "I don't see a single reason why we shouldn't do this (special session) tomorrow. I don't know how seriously we should take complaints that don't come with a written counter-offer."
Bakk emphasized communication between Dayton and conference committees as a key factor to a successful 2017 session.
"I would encourage the two leaders to reach out to the governor so that, in that process, we know what the governor is willing to accept and what he's not so we're not surprised when we all go home," he said.