Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, always has kind words for Gov. Mark Dayton. It reflects how the Republican chairman of the House Taxes Committee is desperate to get a tax bill signed by the DFL governor, especially after falling short in 2015 and 2016.
So, when the House GOP unveiled its $1.35 billion package of tax cuts last week, Davids repeated the need to get the bill through the Legislature and signed by the governor. It’s why his bill does not touch Dayton’s signature tax policy, a fourth income tax tier for the richest Minnesotans.
But Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, perhaps with an eye on the 2018 race for governor, took a different tack at the same news conference. Daudt hit Dayton hard for increasing cigarette taxes because they disproportionately affect the poor, Daudt charged. (Dayton’s office responded by saying the adult smoking rate has declined 10 percent since the 2013 tax increase.)
On several other issues, the Daudt-led GOP House is going right at Dayton legacies. That includes voluntary pre-kindergarten at public schools, and buffers around waterways.
They are also continuing a 2016 crusade against the Southwest light rail project. When Dayton offered up a plan to allow people to buy in to the state’s public insurance plan MinnesotaCare, the House declined to even give it a hearing.
As Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau, told me last week, the voters spoke in 2016, and the DFL needs to listen.
The broader point being: Expect a lot of conflict in the coming weeks. Lots of dueling news conferences. And, of course, a Dayton-Daudt staple — letters back and forth.
The wild card in all this? Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, the Republican clinging to a one-vote majority. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called ...”
Speaking of peacemakers, Davids lightens the mood at the Capitol with his friendly jocularity, and his biennial tradition of naming an official song for his tax bill.
In 2015, it was “Don’t Stop Believin’,” the cheesy ’80s anthem. This year, it’s the Beatles’ “Come Together,” in recognition of the need to unite.
But at a committee hearing last week, Revenue Commissioner Cynthia Bauerly explained to Davids the problematic provenance of the song. It was written for LSD pioneer Timothy Leary’s ill-fated campaign for governor of California against ... Ronald Reagan.