Dayton under pressure as tax decision due

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Ryan Visher, the owner of a Madelia floral shop, joins others at a Republican-organized news conference in urging Gov. Mark Dayton to sign the tax bill. Brian Bakst | MPR News

Minnesota Republicans organized people who would benefit from an up-in-the-air tax bill to apply pressure to Gov. Mark Dayton, who has until the end of Monday to decide its fate.

Ryan Visher, who owns the Hope and Faith Floral and Gifts Shop that was destroyed by the February fire in Madelia, implored Dayton to sign the bill containing property tax breaks for businesses there that are rebuilding. He talked about a visit the governor made to the city after the fire.

"He said that he would help us, and he hasn't yet," Visher said.

Dayton has said he won't sign the bill by a midnight deadline _ tantamount to a veto _ because it contains a wording error that could cost the state treasury $100 million more than anticipated. Lawmakers have said the mistake could be easily fixed later.

The Democratic governor said the problem should be corrected in a special session along with a list of other conditions he has put on convening one, including the completion of transportation and construction project bills.

"The governor’s position has not changed," his spokesman, Matt Swenson. said with 12 hours left on the clock.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said if the bill goes down it will be difficult to resurrect because relations with the governor will have been damaged. Daudt said Dayton shouldn't use the tax cuts valued at $800 million over three years as political leverage.

"I can't save him from himself," Daudt said. "I think he's going to end up doing the right thing at the end of the day, literally the end of the day."

A farmer talked about the importance of a provision easing the property tax burden for agriculture land. A college student said he needs the new student loan tax credit in the bill. A pair of Korean War veterans pointed to various tax measures that would affect them and other war veterans.

The bill also exempts some of land value from a state business property tax, which is seen as a boon to small business.

Chuck Schulte, a Caledonia farm equipment dealer, pointed to the overwhelming legislative support for the bill.

"I don't understand the problem here. I'm sorry, I wish I did but I don't," he said. "If 89 percent voted in favor of it that tells me we have wide bipartisan support. There is a lot of good stuff in this bill. For it to go down for a lack of governor signature seems kind of hard."

House Tax Committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, even brought a dozen pens to a news conference that he said Dayton could use, one for each character in "Mark B. Dayton."

"There is no reason not to sign the bill," Davids said.

House Tax Committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston. Brian Bakst | MPR News

Also tangled in the legislation are tax breaks toward construction of a Major League Soccer stadium in St. Paul and to bring a siding manufacturing plant to the Iron Range.

The bill's flaw was discovered after the Legislature adjourned and Revenue Department officials took a closer look at the wording. It was in a section dealing with taxes paid by bingo halls, but an "or" where there should have been an "and" in the language about who qualified made it far more expansive than intended. It could turn a $1.5 million tax cut into a $101 million one because more pull-tab sellers could claim it.

Allied Charities of Minnesota, an umbrella group for charitable gambling organizations, said the error would work in the favor of local groups by charging them a lower tax rate on gaming ticket sales. But in a statement Monday, Allied Charities said this is not the way they want to gain a break.

"We do not want relief through a drafting error, but we do want and need relief," the statement read.

Meetings between Dayton and top legislators were possible but not firmed up Monday morning.

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