DFL Gov. Mark Dayton blasted GOP legislators who are passing judgment on state employee contracts, saying they are interested in "political theatrics" and are raising concerns that they did not raise when his Republican predecessor negotiated similar provisions.

Dayton accused the Republican-controlled Legislature of "trying to drive a wedge between public and private sector employees" and declined an invitation to meet with the co-chairs of the Legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations, Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, and Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.

The Subcommittee scheduled a meeting for 8:30 a.m. Thursday to decide whether to accept or reject contracts negotiated with two large state-employee unions. Dayton said they asked him for a meeting too late to schedule it before Thursday's decision. "I am not interested in participating in any political theatrics," Dayton wrote in a letter to Parry and Drazkowski.

The subcommittee held a tense meeting to examine the contracts earlier this month, without taking a vote. At issue are contracts with two unions, AFSCME and MAPE, representing nearly 28,000 state workers. While the Legislature is out of session, the subcommittee has authority to pass judgment on the contracts. With a Republican majority on the committee, rejection is possible.

Parry and Drazkowski wrote Dayton a letter Tuesday, saying they had concerns that the contracts "are lacking in any reforms that limit automatic cost increases or embrace performance incentives." The legislators said the contracts are "out of line in comparison to the percent private sector actions." They asked for a meeting.

In his response, Dayton wrote that the contract is "responsible" and "well within the parameters" of contracts negotiated by former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. "We can find no evidence that either of you publicly criticized the previous governor for his four agreements," Dayton wrote.

"So why is it that what was acceptable during the eight years of the Pawlenty Administration is now unacceptable under mine?"

Dayton scoffs at the legislators' statement that they want to "support our thousands of good, dedicated state employees."

"Your first action at the beginning of last year was to propose a 15 percent reduction in state-funded employees for every department...." Dayton wrote. He cited "22 bills introduced by members of your caucuses which attacked public employees, collective bargaining and even the right to form unions.

"The hearing you held recently to consider this contract was highly charged, adversarial and partisan," Dayton wrote.

"The repeated claims that state employee unions are ripping off Minnesota taxpayers are designed for political gains, not constructive reforms," Dayton wrote. "And they are wrong."

Parry and Dayton have a checkered history. The senator recently said Dayton of "popped 15 or 16 pills" during a meeting, which Dayton called a "lie" and which no other legislator -- including Parry's GOP colleagues -- has backed up.




Legislators' Letter

Dayton's Response