Gov. Mark Dayton on Friday vetoed five major budget bills assembled by Republicans, following through on his vow to do so as his efforts with GOP legislative leaders to bring the legislative session to a close remain stalled.
In five letters spanning 18 pages that accompanied the vetoed bills, Dayton outlined point by point his objections to myriad policy changes contained in the spending bills. He chastised the plans as inadequate and urged Republicans to eliminate policymaking from the spending bills and focus on dollar amounts for state programs.
Five other GOP budget bills are pending passage by the Legislature, but Dayton has pledged to veto those as well.
"I remain confident that we can work out these differences and end the legislative session on time," Dayton wrote in his veto letter of a budget bill covering agriculture programs. "The people of Minnesota expect that we work together to keep our state competitive."
Dayton rejected Republican budget cuts and spending reductions for state agencies, saying they would harm timely delivery of government services. He said policy changes affecting environmental enforcement would harm Minnesota's environment. The budget bill covering public schools, which eliminates Dayton's voluntary prekindergarten program and replaces it with early-learning scholarships, was also insufficient for Dayton.
He called spending reductions in the health and human services budget "reckless and foolish."
Just over a week remains until the date by which lawmakers must adjourn the regular session. Dayton and legislative leaders are planning to resume budget negotiations on Monday as they try to agree on about $46 billion in state spending and tax cuts for the next two years.
"It's not easy for over 200 legislators from all parts of the state to agree, and the governor's vetoes ignore the wishes of the people they represent," Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, said in response to Dayton's vetoes. "Despite this, the Legislature will adapt and work toward an acceptable compromise for the good of Minnesota."
In their budget blueprint, Republicans use most of a projected $1.65 billion budget surplus to cover about $1.1 billion in tax cuts. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has said that Dayton's insistence on point-by-point negotiations on specific provisions was slowing down the process of finalizing a new two-year state budget.
Daudt did not respond to a request for comment, but some House GOP leaders made their criticisms clear of Dayton's veto on the agricultural finance bill.
House Agricultural Finance Chair Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, joined other House and Senate Republicans in writing Dayton ahead of the Friday veto and urging him to approve their legislation.
In pushing for two policy changes that would affect the use and disposal of pesticides, Hamilton said "these are eminently reasonable provisions that enjoy broad, bipartisan support in the Legislature and by farmers across the state."
If the Legislature does not pass a balanced budget by May 22 that Dayton will sign, it's likely to result in a special legislative session that will drag into the summer.