Dayton explains budget action
MANKATO — Gov. Mark Dayton visited Mankato Tuesday afternoon, to discuss his action on budget bills recently passed by the Minnesota Legislature.
At the end the session, Dayton vetoed $65 million in funding for the Minnesota House and Senate. Dayton explained he made this decision to avoid a government shutdown but force Republican legislators back into session to negotiate changes to the budget.
Dayton believed the Republican legislation would drain the state’s treasury and turn a surplus into a deficit. In taking over as governor in 2011, Dayton faced a $6.2 billion deficit. Dayton said he refused to pass a deficit onto his successor and jeopardize the state’s financial security.
Dayton said he would allow for a special session if an agreement could be made to remove five provisions from the budget.
The first was the elimination of tobacco tax breaks. Dayton said these tax breaks would cost the treasury $13.8 million in the 2018/2019 biennium and $39.7 million in the next biennium.
The second provision was to cancel an estate tax exclusion increase. The state already has a $5 million tax exemption for farmers and family-owned businesses. Dayton said the $1 million increase to the tax exclusion helped multimillionaires and did little to hep regular Minnesotans.
On a property tax freeze, Dayton supported excluding the first $100,000 of business property from statewide property taxes but was against freezing the levy. The action would cost the state $85 million in 2020/2021 and over $ 1 billion over the next ten years.
Dayton wants the language removed from HF 470 prohibiting undocumented immigrants from obtaining drivers licenses. Dayton said it is redundant and unnecessary. He views it as an attack against immigrants living in the country.
“Without immigration growth in our workforce in the next decade we will have a very difficult time sustaining economic growth we have achieved so far,” he said.
Lastly, Dayton insisted the Legislature re-open and re-negotiate the teacher licensure provision. He supported improving Minnesota’s system, but believed the provision approved by the Legislature undermined the state’s professional standards.
“Good education begins with good educators,” Dayton said.
Dayton’s veto of funding for the Legislature could face a legal challenge. Dayton said the Constitution allows him to line-item veto any appropriation, but Legislative leaders are threatening a lawsuit.
Dayton said his goal is not to go to court, but to negotiate a resolution.
Dayton signed most of the budget bills into law to prevent a government shutdown. He admitted he disagreed with certain provisions in the bills, but wished to avoid a repeat of the July 2011 government shutdown. In addition, he believed it was unlikely lengthy negation on some of the issues would achieve better results.
Dayton praised the passage of a bill increasing funding for pre-K-12 education over the next two years. The new funding includes two percent increase in basic per-pupil funding and a $50 million increase in state funding to expand access to pre-school.
The governor believes transportation funding was overdue and agreed to sign the bill but disagreed with the use of general fund money to pay for it, as it this was an unreliable source.
Dayton was asked about his recent pledge to honor the Paris climate agreement that President Donald Trump backed away from last week. Dayton was asked how Minnesota could keep a commitment the federal government was rejecting.
The governor said Minnesota was already at the forefront on combating climate change. Renewable energy goals set for 2020 were within reach and exceeded.
“We’re already doing it without support from the federal government. It’s unfortunate because it really needs to be all 50 states,” Dayton said. There are 12 other state joining a U.S. Climate Alliance and he hopes to demonstrate that clean renewable energy is cheaper and healthier.