Since becoming majority leader of the Minnesota State Senate earlier this year, I have worked hard to raise the level of discourse in St. Paul in order to get things done. And we did get things done in the 2017 session.
Seniors, small-business owners, farmers and young adults with student loans are already benefiting from tax relief we passed and the governor signed into law. New road and bridge construction is already being planned because of the significant transportation bill we passed (without a gas-tax or tab-fee increase). Families right now are getting relief from unsustainable health insurance premium increases forced on them because of the failure of Obamacare and MNsure. And planning is underway to work with the federal government so Minnesotans can be compliant with Real ID to fly and visit military bases without having to get a passport.
Anyone near the Capitol understood this was a historically successful session — except for one thing: Gov. Mark Dayton line-item vetoed the legislative branch.
I would rather not have taken the governor all the way to the state Supreme Court to protect the voice of the people through their legislative branch. I was willing to pursue mediation if that would allow us to break the impasse. In the end, my best efforts, and those of our team in the Senate, could not break through the impasse.
The governor abruptly ended mediation, accusing us of lying to him. I strongly disagree but decided it was best to let it pass and try to get back to the good working relationship we had forged during the session. But now that he has publicly stated again that I had been dishonest about the Senate’s position and that our team did not act in good faith (“GOP claims about my vetoes simply aren’t true,” Sept. 27), I have no choice but to defend the Senate. The members and staff (both partisan and nonpartisan) of the Minnesota Senate have acted honorably, even in the shadow of the governor’s attempt to defund our branch of government. All of us continually look for ways to end the impasse and stay true to the Constitution’s declaration that the legislative body share power with the executive branch.
The governor’s action attempted to grab more power and we had no choice but to resist that power grab. Once we made the decision to seek help from the courts, both sides agreed the Legislature should be funded until Oct. 1 to make sure we met all of our obligations, including the Senate office building payment. Those extra three months of funding might give us the potential to survive financially until the 2018 session begins, but the path is untested.
Apparently, our updated report to the court upset the governor once he realized his leverage over the legislative branch was temporarily weakened. Whether it happens next month or next February, the fact remains that because of the governor’s veto, the Minnesota House and Senate will run out of money long before the two-year biennium ends.
I’m disappointed in the governor’s tone and accusations that we were dishonest. I’m frustrated that unlike any other governor in Minnesota’s history, Gov. Dayton wiped out funding for the legislative branch, and I’m disheartened that I even have to defend my team in the public arena. But it’s important for the public to know the governor’s public comments on this matter are not accurate.
My hope is that we can all look back on the most recent session and recognize that together a lot was accomplished for Minnesota. And, my hope is that Speaker Kurt Daudt and I can look forward to working with the governor during his last year in office. On the Senate’s part, we are committed to finding solutions to these roadblocks, because Minnesota deserves our best.
Paul Gazelka, R-Baxter, is majority leader of the Minnesota Senate.