With politics in Washington, D.C., defined by hyper-partisanship, people have understandably grown skeptical of government. In Minnesota, we have typically done it better. You expect your elected officials to work together to achieve what’s best for the state.
That’s why at the end of the last legislative session, I was so proud of the historically productive results we achieved. A Republican-led House and Senate worked with our Democratic governor and balanced the budget while investing a historic amount into roads and bridges; boosted funding to our schools; passed Real ID enabling Minnesotans to travel; lowered health insurance premiums; and reduced taxes for millions of Minnesotans. Most important, we did it together.
The Legislature didn’t get everything it wanted, and the governor didn’t get everything he wanted. But in working alongside one another, we brought the session to a productive conclusion.
Then, perhaps after hearing complaints from members of his own party, Gov. Mark Dayton expressed second thoughts about the compromises he had negotiated. Despite personally having agreed to each and every one of the bills, including the amount and provisions within the tax relief bill, the governor tried to go back on his word. He line-item-vetoed funding for the Legislature in an attempt to force us back to the negotiating table.
You all know how it has played out since then. A district court ruled the governor’s veto was unconstitutional, he appealed, and the Supreme Court ordered us into mediation.
Last week Gov. Dayton ended that mediation process, storming out and putting an end to what we believed were important discussions aimed at restoring funding for the Legislature. In the days following he has called us liars — in the paper (“GOP claims about my vetoes simply aren’t true,” Sept. 27) and at public events.
The court recently asked the parties when the House and Senate will run out of carryforward funds. The Senate will run out on Dec. 1 and the House on Feb. 1. The governor told the court he agreed with those dates, because they are the truth.
The governor claimed he was surprised to learn that the Legislature may be forced to dip into the appropriations to the Legislative Coordinating Commission (LCC) to survive a little longer. We did not hide this from the courts or the governor, and it was wrong for the governor to say we did. The governor and his attorneys have argued since June that his vetoes are constitutional because the House and Senate may be able to take funds from the LCC.
As he left the mediation room, it became shockingly clear to me what really upset the governor is that he did not completely eliminate the Legislature. This should disturb everyone.
The 201 senators and representatives serve communities across the state, providing a voice for everyday Minnesotans in the lawmaking process. We’ve continued to fight the governor’s defunding of the Legislature, not for ourselves, but because his tactics and its end result take away your voice. We don’t think it serves you well to have the Legislature running on fumes, curtailing constituent services and resorting to extreme measures to keep the lights on.
We don’t think it serves you well to allow the governor to force the Legislature into the position of relying on funding from the LCC, which funds the nonpartisan Legislative Auditor and 140 other nonpartisan employees who play critical roles.
Even if we make it to February, there is no guarantee the governor will not simply veto new legislation to restore our funding. I hope DFL legislators would support a veto override but worry that their partisan loyalty to the governor might affect their willingness to do so.
Gov. Dayton has gone to dangerous lengths to try to reverse policies that he negotiated, agreed to and signed into law.
If the lower court’s ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court and the Legislature’s funding is restored, we should also seek to restore Minnesotans’ faith in their government. We can start by celebrating shared successes of the 2017 session and looking forward to our 2018 session.
Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, is speaker of the Minnesota House.