St. Paul- Governor Dayton said Thursday there will be no special legislative session in 2016 and that he and legislative leaders are at “an impasse” in negotiations. Reactions have been flooding in from lawmakers since the announcement, and DFL and Republican lawmakers are pointing the blame to those across the aisle.
Dayton met with House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R – Crown), Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL – Cook), and Senate Minority Leader David Hann (R – Eden Prairie) to continue the three month long negotiation process. Dayton said the special session was not called due to a disagreement over funding the Southwest Light Rail Transit project (SWLRT).
In the post-negotiations press conference, Dayton said Republicans’ motives are election oriented, saying, “It’s all about putting something on some people’s election brochure saying, ‘we killed Southwest Light Rail.’”
Senate Majority Leader Bakk was baffled by Republicans saying no to SWLRT, saying, “I think they’re lacking vision,” Bakk said Republicans are, “unwilling to take on the challenge.”
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) also put the blame on GOP lawmakers, saying, “The House Republicans put politics ahead of the interests of Minnesotans, betting their years-long Trumpian tactic of dividing Minnesotans geographically will play well at the polls. I don’t think it will. Republicans will have to explain why refusing to allow metro counties to pay for their own transportation needs is more important than cutting taxes for families and investing in roads and bridges across the state. It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face and it makes no sense.” Earlier in August Thissen promised that if Daudt did not deliver, a “House DFL Majority” would do so after the November elections.
On the other side of the aisle House Speaker Daudt said during the post-negotiations press conference that despite a disagreement over SWLRT, Dayton should call a special session to pass the items they did agree on, calling on Dayton to “keep his word.” Other lawmakers asked Dayton to stick to his previous statement that he would not hold the bipartisan-passed tax relief bill “hostage” to other legislative priorities.
Daudt claimed the issue goes further than a one-time approval of the SWLRT project, saying the project has “two outstanding lawsuits” and extensive ongoing operation costs, “$39 million a year is what the projected ongoing costs (are)”, split between state and local taxpayers, Daudt said.
Senate Minority Leader Hann said “It is disappointing that we can’t proceed with the things that we do agree on,” saying the process of passing various components of the SWLRT project has left a lot of questions. Hann, a resident of Eden Prairie, says that while some in his district want the project, that questions like long-term cost, who will pay for it, etc. need to be answered first.
Lawmakers failed to pass a bonding bill or transportation package during the 2016 legislative session. Dayton said in 2017 he will introduce several bills to fund some of the projects that did not receive funding during 2016. The “blame game” will likely continue through the November elections.