DFL Gov Mark Dayton on Monday ordered his administration to speed approval of environmental permits to spur job creation.
The move allowed the new governor to highlight his campaign pledge to focus on jobs while at the same time grab some credit for implementing the signature components of Republican legislation still stuck in committee.
“I am pleased legislative leaders and I agree on the need to streamline permitting processes and shorten review timelines in order to support businesses expanding and creating new jobs,” Dayton said at a morning news conference.
Dayton’s executive order requires the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Department of Natural Resources to make a decision on permit applications within 150 days.
In most cases, the switch will shave about a month off the review process, but some approvals have taken up to 600 days.
House Republicans called it “concerning” that Dayton would issue the order, which they called a “watered down” version of their own proposal.
“We find his actions today to be counterproductive to the legislative process and his stated commitment to work together on these common-ground issues,” said House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood. “House Republicans will continue with our previously-announced public process for (their proposal) and other initiatives designed to make Minnesota’s business climate competitive.”
Dayton’s executive order largely mirrors proposed legislation by Republicans, who now control both chambers of the Legislature.
Earlier this month, Republicans held a ceremonial news conference to unveil their proposal to speed permitting approval to the same 150 days. That proposal, along with another plan to cut corporate taxes by $200 million, was the very first bill Republicans introduced this session. Republicans said they gave the proposals special treatment as a symbolic move to showcase their business-friendly agenda.
Dayton’s proposal differs in two ways. Republicans want to bump disputes about environmental reviews to the Court of Appeals, rather than the district court. The Republican proposal also allowed entities seeking permits to conduct their own environmental impact statements, taking burden away from local governments.
Dayton said he planned to consult with judges and other experts before deciding whether to support those provisions, which fall outside the scope of an executive order.
Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, stopped short of the immediate criticism levied by the House.
He called it “a good day” for Minnesota businesses, but said that he wanted to see the changes – and the GOP permitting proposals Dayton didn’t address – signed into law.
Michel said if Dayton wants to get into a contest to see who can make Minnesota more business friendly, then it’s a race they’d relish.