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Dayton: No special session after negotiations fail

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Gov. Mark Dayton
No special session this year, says Gov. Mark Dayton.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Gov. Mark Dayton says he'll no longer seek a special session for legislation on public works spending and tax relief following another failed attempt to reach a deal with Republicans. 

Dayton announced his decision Thursday after a brief meeting with House and Senate leaders. He said the past three months of negotiations proved to be "futile" in trying to resolve partisan disagreements over funding for the Southwest Light Rail project between Minneapolis and Eden Prairie.

"I think both the tax bill and the bonding bill would be very beneficial to lots of Minnesotans. That's my disappointment that we couldn't get this worked out in a way that we could proceed with both and pass both and them provide the tax relief and new projects that would benefit thousands of Minnesotans," Dayton said.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt
Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt says good legislation is lost by not having a special session.
Glen Stubbe | Star Tribune via AP

House Republicans firmly opposed the light rail funding that Dayton and Senate Democrats insisted on. 

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, blamed the governor for walking away from the table and discarding two good bills.  

"I did ask him in the meeting if he would consider doing a special session, set aside the things we can't agree on and let's be Minnesotan," Daudt said. "Let's be Minnesota nice and focus on the things we can agree on. Let's get a session and just work on the things we can agree on. The governor flat out said 'no, we're not going to work on those things without Southwest Light Rail.'"       

Legislative leaders began talking about a special session almost immediately after the regular session ended in May. The Legislature was unable to agree during the regular session on a package of public works spending. 

A tax cut bill did pass, but Dayton allowed it to die without his signature because of a wording error that would have cost the state $100 million over the next three years. 

The move incensed Republicans who believed Dayton was simply playing politics with the bill and holding it hostage for a deal on transportation. Dayton said that wasn't the case and blamed House Republicans for the chaotic end of the session that led to the costly error in the tax bill.

The back-and-forth has been a source of frustration for people and groups with a stake in the unfinished Capitol business. Advocates for a long-term transportation finance package appealed to the state's leaders to reach an agreement for the good of the state.

Southwest light rail funding, though, became the flashpoint. 

Daudt on Thursday repeated his belief that Dayton was using the tax bill as a lever to get Republican agreement on Southwest light rail. Good legislation was being lost, he added, because of no deal on light rail.

Daudt added he believed Southwest light rail was "dead."

He added that he was still willing to meet and talk about a special session.

Dayton said he plans to meet with the chair of the Metropolitan Council to discuss options for light rail funding. The governor also said he'll propose similar a tax bill, and separate transportation funding bill next session.