Gov. Dayton wants Friday special session

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Legislature appears set to finish passing the state budget Friday, but there is less certainty than in many past special sessions when outcomes were foregone conclusions.

Tom Bakk
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says Wednesday that he is confident the Legislature can pass its remaining budget bills, but he is not so sure that a special session will be scheduled for Friday as Gov. Mark Dayton wants. (DON DAVIS | FORUM NEWS SERVICE)

ST. PAUL - The Minnesota Legislature appears set to finish passing the state budget Friday, but there is less certainty than in many past special sessions when outcomes were foregone conclusions.
“I cannot guarantee any of these bills will pass,” Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said Wednesday afternoon. “And if they don’t, we’re going to go back to work.”
He said that he is not even sure the session will come off on Friday, as Gov. Mark Dayton wants.
A bill funding agriculture and environmental programs is especially questionable. While the ag part of the bill faces little opposition, liberals and conservatives have problems with the environmental part of the legislation: the left saying provisions do not go far enough to protect the environment and the right saying they go too far.
Dayton and four legislative leaders plan to meet Thursday to officially set the agenda for a special session, allowing the governor to schedule it.
With it expected to be Friday, House and Senate finance committees scheduled a 4 p.m. Thursday meeting to look through the agriculture and jobs bill.
Bakk said he has heard from many senators who simply want to get the budget finished, but the success of the special session may depend on who shows up.
Four or five in the Senate Democratic caucus alone could be gone, Bakk said. The same will be true throughout the Legislature as members follow through with previously made summer plans. With some bills expected to have close votes, the outcome could depend on whether supporters or opponents are gone.
Bakk said he does not plan to strong-arm members into supporting any of the bills.
Details of three vetoed budget bills have been worked out and legislators are ready with two other spending measures, leaving only the formality of four legislative leaders and Dayton signing an agreement on the special legislative session’s agenda.
Deputy Chief of Staff Linden Zakula of Dayton’s office said that if the remaining budget bills fail to pass, the Dayton administration would continue making plans for a partial government shutdown on July 1, including going to court to keep essential employees on duty even without money. Camping spots could not be reserved beginning Monday.
“For those reasons, and to avoid unnecessary disruptions for Minnesotans, Gov. Dayton prefers holding a special session on Friday, and is focused on getting the final details resolved so that a global agreement can be signed by all four (legislative) caucus leaders,” Zakula said.
The current state budget ends June 30 and if three vetoed budget bills do not pass by then some government agencies will shut down.
Dayton vetoed three of eight bills financing the state’s two-year, $42 billion budget after the regular session ended. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Dayton, a Democrat, have been negotiating those bills since the May 18 session end.
No one is happy with the final details, Dayton said, which is the “sign of a true compromise.”
The three vetoed spending bills fund education, agriculture-natural resources and economic development-energy programs. Lawmakers also will be asked to pass a public works funding bill and legislation paying for outdoors and arts projects.
The main issue that delayed calling a special session, whether to strip the state auditor of some of her duties, likely will remain front and center, even though leaders do not expect to deal with it during the special session.
Auditor Rebecca Otto Wednesday said on Minnesota Public Radio that she expects to take the state to court over a new law that gives counties the right to hire private accountants to examine their finances instead of paying her office. She encouraged lawmakers to use the special session to overturn the law Dayton signed last month.
School districts and most cities already can hire private firms to audit their books.


The bills special session will consider

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