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Trust lacking, but Minnesota leaders hope for special session

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt pauses Tuesday, June 7, 2016, before entering negotiations with other legislative leaders and the governor on unfinished work. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)1 / 7
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Tuesday, June 7, 2016, he is "discouraged" dealing with House Republicans as they consider a special session. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)2 / 7
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton says on Tuesday, June 7, 2016, he is "discouraged" dealing with House Republicans as they consider a special session. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)3 / 7
Top Minnesota Democrats brief reporters about a Tuesday, June 7, 2016, discussion on a potential special legislative session. From left are House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)4 / 7
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says on Tuesday, June 7, 2016, that it should be easy to reach an agreement for a special legislative session. With him is House Minority Leader Paul Thissen. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)5 / 7
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith tells reporters on Tuesday, June 7, 2016, that a special legislative session is possible to deal with tax and public works bills. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)6 / 7
Minnesota House Minority Leader Paul Thissen tells reporters Tuesday, June 7, 2016, that House Republicans never unveiled a "fake" $600 million public works bill they often discussed. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)7 / 7

ST. PAUL -- Minnesota's political leaders say they have a problem trusting each other, but on Tuesday they pledged to continue trying to pass failed tax and public works legislation.

"We all have trust issues with one another," Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, agreed, adding: "I think the governor hasn't really kept his word. ... The governor has done and said some things that he went back on in the last week."

Even with the "trust issues," Dayton and legislative leaders decided that legislators involved in a public works financing bill will meet, probably next week, to work out differences among the governor, Republicans who control the House and Democrats who run the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said public testimony is possible on projects Dayton wants in the bill that the House GOP opposes. He said one example is a new University of Minnesota health facility that Dayton makes his top priority but a last-minute legislative public works measure left unfunded.

"I don't feel like the governor was ever consulted," Bakk said about the public works bill, to be financed by the state selling bonds.

Legislative leaders and Dayton administration officials expect to meet Wednesday, June 15, to further discuss a potential special session.

"It's better we take our time and do what's right rather than rush into something again," Daudt said, recalling a chaotic and hurried end to the regular session.

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith saw a different advantage to not rushing. "The speaker and his members will be back in their districts and they will hear from people about how much they want these things. I think that will be good, positive pressure for making progress."

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, agreed. He said that Minnesotans will tell lawmakers "these are entirely reasonable projects" in the bonding bill and will convince legislators to return to St. Paul to pass legislation.

Dayton hits the road Wednesday, headed to Rochester and Mankato, for public appearances to put pressure on area lawmakers to push for a bonding bill that would include significant spending on college and university projects.

A $1 billion bonding bill, which included transportation funding, failed in the final minutes of the regular legislative session last month. It featured funding to repair public buildings, especially colleges and universities, but also would have spent money on projects such as safer railroad crossings and state park improvements.

The other issue that would come up in a special session is a tax bill giving $260 million back to Minnesotans.

"Families, veterans, farmers, small businesses and border communities like East Grand Forks would have seen significant tax relief if this bill was signed into law, but instead the governor chose to play politics with your money," Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, said.

Dayton allowed the tax legislation to die at Monday midnight by a "pocket veto" because it contained a one-word error that would have cost the state $101 million.

Mixed messages about a special session came from state political leaders Tuesday.

While talking about House Republicans, Dayton did not sound optimistic a special session is coming.

"This is why I get discouraged about the possibility of a special session: We can't agree on anything," the Democratic governor said.

While Bakk said "it doesn't seem that difficult' to pass a new bonding bill, he added that "if there are hard feelings, there probably are hard feelings on both sides, and justifiably so. The process didn't work too well. But I think it is pretty easily reparable."

Dayton said he does not have a deadline for deciding whether to call a special session, but said it should be this month.

"I gave up my vacation this week to go to California to see my family and friends," the governor said. "So I will be around."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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