GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt met with Gov. Mark Dayton and reported little progress Friday in a showdown that is holding up a possible special legislative session and $260 million in tax cuts.
In the dayslong stalemate, Daudt described the discussion itself as a bit of a breakthrough.
“I think the fact that we were in a room instead of firing letters back and forth at each other is remarkable progress,” said the Republican from Crown, laughing.
Prospects appear remote for Dayton to sign the tax measure by the Monday deadline, as the DFL governor and Daudt’s caucus cannot agree on a special session to revise the legislation.
Dayton’s weekend schedule includes no meetings with legislative leaders.
Veterans, people with student loan debt and rural property owners are among those who would lose out on tax cuts if the measure were to die.
Dayton wants legislators to return to St. Paul to fix a $101 million error in the tax bill and agree to additional borrowing and spending projects, including more funding for the University of Minnesota, other higher education institutions and a light-rail transit line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie.
Republicans say a special session isn’t necessary to correct the tax bill error, which depletes a revenue stream for the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, and they said they would not consider the governor’s spending and bonding requests until he signs the tax legislation.
After exchanging pointed letters all day on Thursday, Dayton invited legislative leaders to a 3 p.m. meeting on Friday. Daudt showed up with little advance notice, after Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, declined to attend.
Dayton left halfway through the discussion to attend his son’s birthday party. Daudt emerged at 4:17 p.m. He said the parties had a good discussion, but shied away from specifics.
“I think things get much more difficult if [Dayton] doesn’t sign the tax bill, and I think he knows that,” the speaker said.
Daudt added that the governor was trying to use the tax bill as leverage and that “his positions aren’t as imminently reasonable as he thinks they are.”
Legislators could still take up a tax bill if they decide later to convene for a special session. But Daudt acknowledged that it would be more difficult to add new spending that everyone could agree on.
A spokesman for Dayton said after the meeting that the governor’s position had not changed. Dayton told reporters Friday morning that he wanted legislators to set aside politics and meet for a special session that addressed his requests.
Meanwhile, mayors raised alarm over political leaders not striking a deal on the tax measure.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman noted that the legislation included a property tax exemption for a Major League Soccer stadium site — a critical provision if team owners are going to build the $150 million facility in the city’s Midway area.
“The people of Minnesota weighed in heavily throughout the session to express their support for bringing Major League Soccer to Minnesota,” Coleman said in a statement. “We get one chance at this, and we need leadership to deliver.”
Le Sueur Mayor Robert Broeder wrote to Dayton and legislative leaders urging them to resolve their differences and pass the tax bill.
The mayor, who is president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, said that the legislation included an increase in aid to local governments that would hold down property tax increases. His organization represents 88 cities, from Duluth to Rochester.
“I think it would be a real disaster if nothing does happen,” Broeder said. “A no-action government is really not acceptable.”