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Dayton torpedoes GOP tax, budget bills; no special session

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DFL Gov. Mark Dayton leaves the Cabinet Room.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has vetoed the tax conformity and budget bills passed by the state lawmakers.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Updated 4:40 p.m. | Posted 11:13 a.m.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday vetoed the tax and budget bills that included the main work of the Republican-led Legislature and vowed he would not call a special session to work things out, saying, "They had their chance."

While the bills contained proposals supported by Democrats and Republicans, Dayton days earlier had telegraphed his problems with the legislation. Just a few hours before the midnight Sunday deadline for bills to pass, Dayton dashed Republican hopes that there was enough to like in tax and budget bills.

He renewed those criticisms Wednesday after the vetoes. 

He described the budget bill as "not meant to be something I could sign. It was meant to be something they (Republicans) could take around the state." The tax legislation, he added was "skewed to big corporations and wealthy people, and it was unacceptable."

Republican leaders tore into Dayton over the vetoes.

"This session wasn't a failure. Our governor was a failure," GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt told reporters. "Minnesotans will be hurt because he chose politics over people."

The budget bill would have used money from the state surplus to help boost school security, take steps to attack the opioid epidemic, begin addressing problems with the elder care system and more. 

The tax bill authorized $225 million in spending for schools meant to avert layoffs and program cuts in some districts, but Dayton had called it "fake," because only $50 million of it was new money.

Dayton said Wednesday he regretted that school safety funding in the budget bill was vetoed and that there'd be nothing for higher education and school districts facing layoffs and other cuts this session. 

There is $25 million for school safety in the public works bonding bill passed by the Legislature. Dayton said he would decide the fate of that measure and a public employee pension bill by the end of the week. 

Overall, though, he ripped Republicans for bills he said were meant only for "re-election campaign slogans." 

The tax bill veto could cause headaches for Minnesotans filing their taxes next year. It was intended to bring state tax law in alignment with federal tax law changes. 

Conforming the federal tax code was high on lawmakers' to-do list this session because not conforming will mean complicated tax forms next year and possible increases for some Minnesotans.

"Divided government has not worked well for Minnesota over the last eight years," Dayton said, "but it has worked better than it did this time."

The federal government allocated the money earlier, but the Secretary of State's office can't spend it without legislative authorization. That authorization was in the budget bill Dayton vetoed Wednesday.

The budget bill veto means Minnesota can't tap $6 million in federal funds for election cybersecurity until after the November elections.

Secretary of State Steve Simon says he repeatedly asked lawmakers to put the language in a non-controversial, stand-alone bill that Dayton would sign. But he said lawmakers chose the "riskiest path" by putting it instead in a bill Dayton repeatedly promised to veto.

Simon says lawmakers "gambled and lost," leaving the state with a "bad and completely avoidable outcome."

Simon has said he expects Russian operatives to try again to hack the 2018 elections.

Daudt and other Republicans responded with anger and frustration over the vetoes, saying the governor's approach killed funding for Minnesotans who needed it. 

Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said he expects Dayton will veto the public works spending bill as well. "I can't answer for how illogical this governor has been for the last two weeks, and beyond that."

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka listed off groups that will be hurt by the veto of the budget bill: Taxpayers, students, people suffering from opioid addiction and the elderly.

"Everywhere we turn, somebody is impacted, because in the end we are too stubborn to give in," said Gazelka, R-Nisswa.

It's unfair, he added, to say Republicans are only interested in their campaigns for re-election, particularly in the Senate, where members are not on the ballot this year.

"It feels impulsive, it feels vindictive and it didn't help anybody in Minnesota," he said of the vetoes. "I don't know where we go from here."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.