Dayton: Agreement reached for special session

Gov. Mark Dayton said Wednesday that he has reached an agreement with House Republican leaders on the outstanding issues in the jobs and energy budget bill, and that he is prepared to call a special session after all legislative leaders sign off on the final language in the bills.

The deal ends a weekslong stalemate and eases worries of more than 9,400 state workers that they could be laid off on July 1.

“I will call a special session, as soon as the four caucus leaders and I have each reviewed and approved the proposed statutory language and have all signed a written agreement defining the session’s parameters,” Dayton said in a statement.

Over the past two days, Dayton’s office and legislative leaders have been negotiating the details of the final outstanding bill that funds jobs and energy programs.

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In his statement, Dayton said the bill will include $5 million to help Minnesotans with disabilities find and maintain work,  a provision to lower utility rates for paper plants and taconite mines in northeastern Minnesota and language that gives Rochester flexibility when it comes to using its local sales tax for the Mayo Clinic’s Destination Medical Center.

A spokesperson for Dayton said the governor did not win on his push to remove language that changes how utility customers are credited on utility bills for producing solar or wind energy.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said House Republicans achieved their goal of holding the line on spending and taxes in a budget that he maintained has the third lowest percent increase in general fund spending in more than 50 years.

"We are targeting tax dollars toward our state’s priorities – E-12 students, roads and bridges, aging adults – and we are doing so without increasing the tax burden on hardworking Minnesotans. We are also taking swift action to address emerging issues like the avian flu outbreak on Minnesota farms and steelworker layoffs on the Iron Range,” said Daudt.

The agreement means the state is unlikely to face a partial government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins on July 1. That possibility, caused by Dayton's veto of three budget bills shortly after the regular legislative session ended on May 18, led the state to send layoff notices to nearly 9,500 workers.

The agreement also signals the end of a six-month debate where Dayton battled with House Republicans and Senate Democrats over the best way to spend a $1.8 billion surplus. The overall agreement leaves about $1 billion of that money unspent, likely setting up a debate over tax cuts in next year's session.

As part of the final deal Dayton dropped his demand for universal pre-K for Minnesota 4-year-olds, a demand that originally led him to veto a massive school funding bill. Other issues popped up in the weeks after the regular session ended, including a measure that allows counties to hire private auditing firms instead of using the state auditor to monitor their books.

Dayton initially made changing that provision another condition of calling a special session, even though he signed it as a part of a larger state departments budget bill. Republicans refused, and Dayton backed down this week.

Dayton said he hopes legislators can pass all of the bills in a one-day special session. But exactly when the special session will be held is yet to be determined.