Two weeks after a public dust-up with DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk over pay raises for his commissioners, Dayton made clear that, if it passes, he will sign the deficiency bill that delays his authority to grant more than $900,000 in pay raises to his commissioners until July 1.
However, he is unlikely to decide anytime soon whether he will restore the raises when the time comes.
“Ask me on June 30,” Dayton told reporters shortly after speaking to lawmakers and constituents during Duluth and St. Louis County Days at the Capitol.
The deal cut with House and Senate leaders heads for dual floor votes today, putting the controversy to bed at least until July. Dayton said, he’d like to move on to more pressing issues like his proposed $6 billion in transportation funding, given a revenue forecast scheduled for Friday that will shape the next biennium’s budget.
“That’s what the Legislature and I are here to do, is set the course of the next two years, find a budget, make crucial decisions on transportation funding," he said. "So now that we’re at the point where we have that definitive information and I think that should be the focus of the legislative session and I’m glad to get onto that.”
Still, Dayton remained defiant about the pay raises. Under the new agreement, some commissioners will be earning less than some of the employees they supervise. Dayton said it’s one of the reasons he proposed salary increases in the first place—to retain top talent when it comes to running state agencies.
“I realize they’re not popular, but they’re necessary to keep good people in government and recruit good people in government,” he said. “It’s absurd that my top commissioners, now because of this pushback to the previous law, are making $30,000 less than the Chief Clerk of the Minnesota House.”
Among them, Dayton pointed out, is Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, who oversees 6,000 employees and a multi-billion dollar annual budget in state and federal dollars.
“It doesn’t make any sense by any rational consideration, but salary issues are not usually rationally considered.”
Dayton rejected the suggestion that he surrendered his authority to give commissioner pay raises, saying instead that it was merely postponed.
“It delays my ability to what I think I should do and what I need to do, but in four months I’ll have that opportunity.”
Asked if he has regained his trust in Bakk, Dayton said only that a Wednesday meeting with Bakk--their first since he publicly referred to the Senate Majority Leader as a “backstabber”—was productive.
“We’re both elected by the people of Minnesota to do our jobs, and we’ll work cooperatively and constructively together on what we can accomplish together, and we’re both experienced enough to know how to do that.”