Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday renewed his request to Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt to agree to a special legislative session to aid laid-off Iron Range miners and to address black poverty and unemployment.
Dayton added more details to his proposal for a special session, wanting to set aside $15 million to help black Minnesotans.
The funding shows that “we can make a commitment that shows people that we recognize the urgency of the situation here,” Dayton told reporters at an event in north Minneapolis.
The governor called the initial spending “just a beginning, but it is a beginning. And if we can develop a project or set of projects working with community leaders here, that participation can move forward.”
Dayton’s proposal intensifies pressure on Daudt, a Republican from Crown who has largely resisted calls for a special session.
After meeting with House GOP members Tuesday, Daudt was again noncommittal.
In a statement, Daudt said he had spoken with Dayton on Monday, adding that “our plan is to meet early next week to talk about these issues in further detail.”
Since mid-November, Dayton has called for a special legislative session to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off steelworkers in northeastern Minnesota. The state’s steel industry is in turmoil amid charges that China and other countries are underpricing steel imports. Dayton hopes legislators will convene ahead of the regularly scheduled session, which won’t begin until March 8.
The addition of legislation to address economic disparities afflicting black Minnesotans came at the urging of Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
In his letter to Daudt, Dayton highlighted recent census data showing that black poverty rose from 2013 to 2014, while median household income dropped to about $27,000. To begin addressing disparities, Dayton is requesting $15 million from the Legislature “to improve economic outcomes in communities of color.”
Bakk on Monday said the state should act quickly to extend jobless benefits and avoid prolonging the economic pain of more than 1,000 jobless miners. Dayton this week said that he and some members of the state’s congressional delegation are seeking a personal meeting with President Obama to urge him to combat the dumping of foreign steel on the global market, which they say is driving down prices and crippling Minnesota’s steel industry.
Dayton does not need legislative approval to call a special session, but legislators decide when to end it, which is why governors and legislators usually negotiate issues to be addressed. Daudt previously added two conditions before he would consider agreeing to Dayton’s session proposal. Daudt said he wanted assurances that the proposed PolyMet copper-nickel mine and the Sandpiper oil pipeline would be expedited.
In his letter, Dayton responded to Daudt’s conditions on the proposed mine and oil pipeline, promising that he and his administration would not “act to impede or delay the environmental and financial reviews, if the final [environmental-impact statement] is determined to be adequate.”
Dayton also said that he supported the Sandpiper pipeline but that the power and process to approve it lies with the state’s Public Utilities Commission. On the PolyMet mine, Dayton said that he has not yet taken a position and that he is awaiting the completion of all permitting reviews.
“My administration [will not] be rushed into short-circuiting and shortchanging any of those careful reviews,” Dayton wrote.
Daudt in his statement said it appeared that Dayton’s administration was “disrupting the permitting process for Sandpiper and proposing new, unnecessary studies for PolyMet.”
Star Tribune staff writer Eric Roper contributed to this report.