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Two Major Bills Await Governor’s Action

By May 31, 2016 No Comments

Gov. Mark Dayton prepares for a 1 pm news conference on Wednesday after signing 20 bills, vetoing two and leaving two with no action, including a tax bill containing significant opportunities for Greater Minnesota schools.

When the legislature adjourned session on May 22, the Governor received extra time to review legislation that’s passed in the final three days of that session. He has 14 days to be exact, to either sign, veto or “pocket veto” bills. A pocket veto is when the Governor doesn’t sign a bill into law, nor outright veto it, but the 14-day clock runs out and without a signature the bill does not become law.

The House Chief Clerk and the Secretary of the Senate don’t necessarily present bills passed in the last three days of session to the Governor right away. They often wait a day or two and meter out the presentation of bills.

Gov. Dayton was presented at least 24 bills a week ago – or two days after the legislature adjourned. He told the press initially he would take action within 48 hours, but later said he would take the Memorial Day weekend to review the bills further.

Action So Far

Gov. Dayton on Tuesday signed 20 of those bills into law and he vetoed 2 of them. One of the vetoed bills was the Pension bill.

The pension bills didn’t provide a comprehensive fix for TRA and other pension funds, but it did freeze retiree benefits for a couple of years. TRA had asked for a larger, more comprehensive fix, but the legislature declined to tackle pension issues head on this session. Governor Dayton said the pension bill lacked a shared commitment and therefore he vetoed it. His letter indicates he wants to tackle this issue during the 2017 session. View the Governor’s pension veto letter.

The Governor has yet to take action on two major bills passed on the last day of session. At 1pm today he will discuss his intentions for the omnibus Tax bill and the Supplemental Budget bill.

What’s At Stake

The omnibus tax bill contains a freeze on future tobacco tax increases and liberals have decried this change. The tax bill also failed to fix a sales tax issue for the State High School League that will result in the loss of $800,000 in annual athletic scholarships for low income kids.

The tax bill does contain a 40 percent school bond property tax credit for agricultural production land. This is a major provision needed across rural Minnesota for farmers and school districts trying to pay for 21st century learning facilities for our youngest to oldest learners.

The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) released a projected run of the 40 percent Ag2School credit that affects all bonded facility debt, including Voter Approved, Alternate Facilities, and Capital Facilities Bonds. View MDE’s Projection of the Impact

As for the Supplemental Budget bill, the Governor hasn’t flagged a specific issue with this bill to date. Arguably, the Governor was the major winner in the Supplemental bill with the creation of a school formula driven pre-K pilot program. There’s funding for many rural school districts and several rural initiatives related to teacher recruitment and retention in the Supplemental bill. Hopefully the Governor will sign this bill and allow these initiatives to move forward.

Special Session?

House GOP leaders have been calling for a special session to take up a bonding bill that was tripped up literally at the last minute of the regular session.

Gov. Dayton has been mostly silent to date on whether or not he’ll call them into a special session. He’s frustrated at the lack of progress on a major transportation spending bill.

The House GOP battled his gas tax increase and the southwest light rail line. Gov. Dayton could veto the Tax bill as leverage over the GOP in order to secure a bigger bonding bill and funding for southwest light rail. It’s unlikely the House GOP will cave on gas tax increased for the bonding bill they want.

As for the Senate DFL, they’re generally on the same page as the Governor, but certainly would prefer less dramatics as they head into their own re-election season.

Familiar End

If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s almost exactly where we were a year ago. Gov. Dayton vetoed the E-12 bill among others because it didn’t contain his pre-K proposal.

The House GOP wouldn’t acquiesce to that, but they did give the Governor more E-12 spending than they initially put on his desk. Meanwhile, the Senate DFL let them negotiate and agreed to support their deal so long as it wasn’t a budget buster.

On June 12, 2015, they got that deal done. Will the same pattern and timing play out here? Will the supplemental bill remain a pawn in the special session game? Wednesday’s press conference will be telling.

Follow the action on Twitter @mreavoice.