Dayton vetoes GOP budget, predicts gov't shutdown

Dayton vetos budget bills
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton speaks at a news conference after vetoing all of the budget bills that the GOP-controlled Legislature sent to him for action, on Tuesday May 24, 2011 at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday he thinks there's a "strong likelihood" of a government shutdown after the Republican-controlled Legislature adjourned without a final budget agreement.

Hours after the session ended, Dayton vetoed eight GOP spending bills and one tax bill, and he blamed the lingering budget impasse on what he called right-wing extremists.

State lawmakers spent nearly five months trying to erase a projected $5 billion budget deficit. They'll now need a special session to finish their work before July 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

Dayton said he rejected the entire Republican budget because its spending cuts were "extremely harsh and unfair" to thousands of Minnesotans.

He pointed specifically to proposed reductions in health care for the poor, higher education and public transit. Dayton is still proposing a mix of an income tax increase on top earners and spending cuts to balance the budget.

"My sense is that Minnesota is best served by a balance, by a moderate approach of a combination of a revenue increase on only the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans, and spending cuts that will be difficult but necessary to carry out this balanced approach," Dayton said.

Dean, Koch and Zellers
From left, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and House Speaker Kurt Zellers speak with the media before leaving for a tour of the state to promote the GOP's efforts in the legislative session.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

The governor repeated that he cannot accept "the Republican approach to an all-cuts budget" because he thinks it would harm Minnesota in the next biennium and beyond.

Dayton tried to spur an end-of-session agreement last week by trimming his tax proposal by half. But Republicans remained firmly opposed to any tax increases, or any spending above $34 billion for the next two years.

During his news conference on his vetoes, Dayton said he believes newly elected Republicans in the House and Senate have caused the problems.

"We're hung up on the overall budget target because of the intransigence of the extreme right-wing members of their respective caucuses, who don't in many cases know much about government and don't seem to even care to find out," he said.

Dayton said he has no plans yet to call a special session, but he hopes to meet later this week with Republicans to resume budget discussions. In the meantime, he said he hopes Minnesotans will help convince GOP lawmakers in the coming weeks to compromise and avoid a government shutdown.

Republicans were busy doing their own convincing as part of a six-city media tour following the end of the session. House Speaker Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove said the GOP delivered a balanced budget that didn't raise taxes.

"We've presented our budget. It's not $36 billion, which is what the governor wants. It's not $32 billion, which is what we spent in the last budget," Zellers said. "It's smack dab in the middle at $34 billion. If the governor wants a tax increase for double-digit, unsustained growth on government spending, that's the case he has to make."

Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch of Buffalo said she's ready to resume talks with Dayton. Koch said she wants to negotiate a budget agreement by taking up the spending bills one at a time, but warned that Dayton will not find support in the Legislature for any tax increases.

"He's got proposals that aren't worth the paper they're written on, because they're not backed up by votes," Koch said. "They're not. So, governor, come on in talk to us about the bills."

Koch and Zellers said they would spend the day highlighting some of the accomplishments of the session, including a bill to streamline environmental permits for businesses.

Both leaders tried to downplay the amount of energy spent to pass a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.