Gov. Mark Dayton will meet with legislative leaders Friday to work on an agreement for a special legislative session next month.
Dayton and Republican legislative leaders have struggled to agree on an agenda for a day-long special session originally intended to deal solely with storm damage relief for counties in southern Minnesota.
Last week, the governor said he wanted to add one item to the agenda: A repeal of a much-criticized new sales tax on farm equipment repair.
Republicans are now pushing for a broader session to consider a repeal of a warehousing tax, which doesn’t kick in until April.
Dayton said nobody has outlined a way to pay for repealing the warehousing tax.
"When Republican leadership came out six weeks ago with a proposal to repeal the warehouse tax, I said, well, in order for me to consider this proposal, I’d have to know, what’s the alternative source of revenue, where’s the $95 million in spending cuts going to take place? I never got a response to that," Dayton said. “That’s their mantra. ‘Eliminate the tax, eliminate the tax.’ Which is fine, but do you cut back on the all-day kindergarten? Do you cut back on early childhood scholarships? Do you, as some have suggested, raise the taxes on consumers, on clothing? No, not as far as I’m concerned.”
Dayton said on Minnesota Public Radio that there is plenty of time to repeal the warehousing tax during the regular legislative session early next year, once budget officials have a better look at the state economy and the flow of tax dollars. Adding agenda items to the proposed Sept. 9 special session could cause it to drag on indefinitely and bog down in partisan squabbling.
In the hour-long interview on MPR, Dayton addressed a range of topics, expressing more confidence in the implementation of President Obama’s new health care overhaul in Minnesota. He also offered continued support for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium project despite concerns about the financial integrity of team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf.
The governor praised the Minnesota Sports Facilities Commission for delaying signing the final stadium contracts and hiring a high-level corporate auditor to probe the Wilfs’ finances and business dealings.
A recent New Jersey lawsuit ruling, in which a judge said the Wilfs were guilty of fraud and civil racketeering in a 20 year old development, shows that the owners’ business dealings did not meet Minnesota’s standards for honesty and integrity, Dayton said.
He wants to know whether the lawsuit reveals a one-time issue or tells a larger story of how the team owners do business.
Ultimately, however, Dayton said the Wilfs own the Vikings and decide whether the team stays in Minnesota or moves elsewhere.
“I didn’t choose them and they didn’t choose me,” he said.
The governor said he is convinced that the new stadium will usher in a profound redevelopment of that corner of downtown, benefiting the entire state in the coming decades.
Dayton said he believes the roll-out of the new health care law will demonstrate that Minnesota is a leader nationally.
“I am more confident,” he said. “Minnesota has done a suburb job.”
Earlier, Dayton had called the entire program a “big gamble” and he couldn’t predict the outcome.
The governor says he is sure problems will arise, but state leaders are well equipped to handle them.
“We are starting a gigantic business on day one,” he said. “There will be challenges and glitches initially.”
Staff writers Jennifer Brooks and Jim Ragsdale contributed to this report.