It’s unclear if average Minnesotans know or care, but the Legislature’s operating funds will be cut off in just a few weeks, leaving it to survive on reserves while pay and benefits for lawmakers and staffers hang in the balance.
Gov. Mark Dayton showed no signs of relenting, taking his show on the road to Rochester and Mankato last week and continuing to insist that the Legislature must renegotiate bills he has already signed on taxes, immigrant driver’s licenses and education policy.
Despite plans to meet Dayton early this week, GOP legislative leaders continue to say they’ll not renegotiate issues already signed into law.
Rank-and-file GOP lawmakers are even more militant.
“It’s an embarrassment for him to have this idea that we’re going to agree to what he wants in exchange for getting paid,” said Rep. Jim Knoblach, R-St. Cloud, who as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee was in the room for some of the key end-of-session deal-making.
“Hell will freeze over before I agree to any kind of deal like that,” Knoblach said.
Added Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, 2018 candidate for governor: “To now come back after having completed the session and signed the bills, and now you want to renegotiate things under — I wouldn’t even say duress — I would say extortion, I would say that’s silly and embarrassing.”
The Dayton camp, meanwhile, seems quite happy to fight in at least one of the five areas the governor wants renegotiated: tobacco taxes.
At a Friday news conference, Dayton highlighted measures in the tax bill — which, let’s not forget, he signed — that would lower taxes on cigars and end an annual automatic tax increase on cigarettes. Dayton plans more travel to greater Minnesota this week to keep the pressure on.
Tobacco taxes poll off-the-charts good for Dayton, a DFL operative tells me. In short, it’s hard to see how the two sides resolve the impasse in a way that allows everyone to save face.
Which brings us to Doug Kelley, the Legislature’s chosen lawyer in a presumptive lawsuit against Dayton. A colleague dug up an old profile of Kelley, and he doesn’t seem like a guy you’d want to tangle with: mountaineer, sky-diver, marathon runner, Green Beret. “He pointedly mentions that when he was a U.S. attorney prosecuting racketeer Deil Gustafson in a check-floating scheme — he slept with a gun under his pillow.”