- Associated Press - Monday, May 23, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Gov. Mark Dayton said he hasn’t decided whether he’s going to give state lawmakers a second chance to finish their work and fund both public works projects and road and bridge repairs that were left undone after the Legislature devolved into chaos in the final minutes of the session early Monday morning.

Dayton on Monday called lawmakers’ inability to pass more than $1 billion in transportation and public works proposals in their final hour after 11 weeks of work a “tragedy.” He said he doesn’t yet know whether he’ll call lawmakers back for a special session later this year, but wasn’t optimistic even then they could finish their work.

“We’re starting at a point of impasse and I don’t know what the willingness is on anybody’s part to go beyond that,” he said. “They weren’t willing to compromise up until the final hours last night. I don’t know what’s going to change that equation.”

Legislators did finish some major pieces of their plans to use a $900 million budget surplus, including a package of $260 million of tax credits and cuts to help farmers, parents, businesses and college students. They also passed extra spending on a statewide voluntary preschool program and broadband Internet infrastructure development.

The governor said he was pleased that funding for a statewide voluntary preschool program made into the final budget, a requirement he previously said was nonnegotiable in addition to the funding for broadband and to combat racial economic disparities.

Dayton said Monday he would begin reviewing the budget and the tax package once he received the final bills and that his consideration of them wouldn’t be tied to a potential special session. He spoke favorably of both, but stopped short of declaring he would sign them.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt pressed the governor to call a special session in the next few days, arguing it makes more sense to reconvene while lawmakers are still in town and before the House again loses its chamber on Wednesday due to the ongoing renovations at the Capitol.

“If we wait too much longer, I’m afraid that the fragile nature of this agreement will deteriorate,” Daudt said.

Bonding bills are a near-annual fixture at the Legislature, providing millions of dollars for construction projects in members’ districts across the state. But a combination package of more than $1 billion in public works projects and one-time funding for road and bridge repairs failed in a flurry of parliamentary procedures late Sunday, triggered by a disagreement over mass-transit.

Lawmakers quickly tried to ramp up pressure for a special session this week to finish it up.

In an email to constituents with a subject line “URGENT,” Rep. Jim Newberger, R-Becker, referenced a handful of projects in his central Minnesota that were set to receive funding in the failed package, asking his constituents to call Dayton’s office and demand an immediate special session.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he also hopes to get another crack at passing the bill with more than $1 billion in construction. But the partisan divide over mass-transit projects - a light-rail train to the southwestern Minneapolis suburbs, in particular - that caused the bonding bill’s failure remained, keeping a quick solution out of reach.

Daudt called that project unnecessary and controversial. Senate Democrats insist it’s critical.

“If there is some kind of agreement on a bonding bill … it will have a solution to Southwest Light Rail in it,” Bakk said.

In another piece of unfinished business, the Legislature also failed to pass upgrades needed for Minnesota driver’s licenses to satisfy the federal government. Lawmakers worked for weeks to find a compromise to comply with the federal Real ID Act, which officials say will require new IDs be in place by 2018 to board domestic flights.

Dayton said Monday that there’s a “perfectly good chance” next year for lawmakers to find compromise a bill and solve the issue.

“No bill this year is better than a bad bill,” he said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide