Squabbling continues on MN special session, light rail

House Speaker Kurt daudt, Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk speak to reporters ffollowing their latest meeting on a potential special session. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and top legislative leaders met again Friday to discuss a potential special session to pass a bonding bill and a tax bill, but they still don’t have an agreement.

Dayton, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, emerged from their latest private meeting without resolution of a key disagreement. House Republicans remain opposed to funding for the Southwest Corridor light rail project.

Dayton and Senate Democrats insist on the Southwest Corridor funding, and the governor said a special session is unlikely without it.

“The Legislature won’t let us improve the economic and social vitality of the metropolitan area,” Dayton said. “I think that’s really irresponsible.”

Another meeting is planned for Thursday. Dayton would not say whether that’s the last chance for a special session deal.

The news conference atmosphere soured by the minute as the governor and leaders restated their conflicting positions on light rail.

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Daudt warned that the benefits of tax cuts and a package of public works construction projects could be lost if Democrats walk away from the table over light rail. He said he thinks the Metropolitan Council and other government entities will end up finding another way to complete the funding for the Southwest project.

“We’re going to lose everything that’s on the table right now,” Daudt said.” I don’t think that’s very good legislating. I don’t think that’s very good leadership.”

Bakk said he thinks there are a few options to consider for transit funding, including a metro county sales tax. He said they plan to discuss those options further at their next meeting.

The governor and leaders said they have largely agreed on the elements of the tax bill and the other projects in a nearly $1 billion bonding bill.

Special session talks began last spring after the Legislature failed to resolve a bonding bill and Dayton vetoed the tax bill lawmakers passed due to a wording error.

House and Senate minority leaders, who did not participate in the meeting, would need to sign off on any special session deal.