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Dayton: Lawmakers 'hiding behind their desks' on marijuana issue

Posted by: under Minnesota governor, Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, State budgets Updated: April 8, 2014 - 3:36 PM

Gov. Mark Dayton said Minnesota legislators are “hiding behind their desks” on a proposal to legalize medical marijuana.

Parents of children with seizure disorders have lambasted the governor’s opposition to legalizing medical marijuana, saying he is the only person standing between their children and the herb that could help them.

The governor offered to enroll the children in a Mayo Clinic study that could provide relief, but so far the parents have rejected the offer, saying similar studies never worked in other states.

It remains far from certain supporters even have the votes in the Legislature to legalize medical marijuana.

DFL Rep. Carly Melin, a strong backer of the proposal from Hibbing, said she believes the votes are there, but so far House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, has not called for a vote.

Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, has authored a new proposal to legalize medical marijuana, but House officials say that proposal will not get a floor vote.

When asked if he would veto a medical marijuana measure if it got to his desk, Dayton put the pressure squarely back on legislators. “Let’s see them vote,” he said Tuesday.

With just over a month remaining in the legislative session, the governor said he believes Democratic lawmakers are spending too much of the projected $1.2 billion surplus.

He did not quarrel with the items legislators wanted to spend money on, but warned against spending so much the state goes back into deficit in coming years.

He did not threaten to line-item veto any new spending, saying he hopes to work it out with legislative leaders later this month.

The governor also said he’d like to spend closer to $1 billion on statewide construction projects, saying the state can easily afford the extra debt payments.

Legislative leaders agreed to $850 million in new borrowing last year, but the state’s improving finances and billions of dollars in worthy projects has Dayton pressing for more.

Dayton was particularly critical of the amount designated for higher education buildings and projects, which he has said is inadequate.

Minnesota can't have a first-rate higher education system with third-rate facilities, Dayton said.

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