Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed his first bill -- one passed by the GOP-led Legislature that would have cut $900 million from the state budget. Dayton, a DFLer, said the Republican-controlled Legislature needs to work with him on an overall solution to the state's looming budget deficit.
Dayton acted quickly to dispose of the budget bill, which the Senate sent to him on a party line vote just hours before the veto. The measure called for about $100 million in budget cuts in the current fiscal period, which ends on June 30, and another $800 million to take effect in the next two-year budget cycle.
Dayton said the bill would have resulted in a $428 million property tax increase.
"I didn't invite this legislation," said Dayton. "It underscores that the Legislature is acting with extreme rashness with something this important, that would raise property taxes $400 million over the next biennium. It would slash higher education funding, human services funding and aid to local governments."
Dayton also claimed the bill was unconstitutional, because it directed his administration to make unspecified cuts of $100 million in the current biennium. He said the Constitution is clear that when the Legislature cuts spending it must be specific, and that it can't give up its power to the executive branch.
But Dayton's biggest criticism of the GOP-backed bill was that it didn't solve the entire $6.2 billion projected budget deficit. He has insisted for weeks that lawmakers work with him and not take a piecemeal approach.
"This just supports my contention that they're acting really prematurely and without sufficient forethought, and especially without sufficient public input into these decisions," said Dayton.
Republican legislative leaders said they were trying to reduce the size of the overall deficit by making permanent many of the one-time cuts the DFL-controlled Legislature and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty approved last year.
After the governor's veto Thursday, Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, said he's disappointed with the governor's action. He said Dayton's plan to raise income taxes on top earners is out of step.
"Most governors, Republican or Democrat, are making cuts, are making immediate spending cuts, some reforms and even lowering taxes -- and trying to be the winners when this economy recovers," said Michel. "My fear is that the governor, with his statements yesterday and his action today, is going against the grain."
Dayton delivered his State of the State address on Wednesday, and in it he underscored his intention to propose an income tax increase for the state's top earners. That proposal is also expected to be included in the budget plan that Dayton will release next week. But in recent days, he has hinted the tax increase will be temporary.
Republicans have said they won't support a tax increase of any kind. Republican House Majority Leader Matt Dean said he's concerned that there could be major problems on the horizon.
"We have $6.2 billion worth of stuff. If this is totally unacceptable, what does that look like? I think the pressure is really on for him," said Dean.
Republicans in both the House and Senate say they won't waste any time working on a budget solution. They say their biggest concern is waiting until the end of session to get a budget deal done, and the danger that time will run out without an agreement.