Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday mounted what is likely to be one final push for a short special legislative session before the end of the year, asking lawmakers to join in passing relief for spiking health insurance premiums in the state’s private market, and finally approving two major spending bills that stalled months ago.
“This is it,” Dayton said at a news conference Tuesday. “It’s a question, now, of do they really want to do this?”
For months, Dayton and legislative leaders have negotiated terms of a possible special session but failed to strike a deal. At issue were two bills that lawmakers failed to properly finalize in last spring’s legislation session: a multimillion-dollar package of tax cuts and aid provisions for local governments, and a $1 billion public works spending plan.
The special session talks gained more urgency after news this fall of hefty premium increases pending for participants in MNsure’s private insurance market. Dayton has proposed a 25 percent health insurance premium subsidy, at a cost to the state of over $300 million.
At his news conference Tuesday, Dayton released details of a potential compromise on all three items that he said incorporates priorities of both DFLers and Republicans while also requiring both sides to give ground, too. He said leading lawmakers must decide by Thursday whether they can get on board, which would allow him to call a special session for next Tuesday.
Any later than that, Dayton said, and the Christmas and New Year’s holidays would make a special session impossible to schedule. Lawmakers return for their regular session on Jan. 3; Dayton said if there is no special session, he will insist lawmakers act in the first week of the new session to approve the insurance subsidy.
“If people are going to be true to what they campaigned on, then we’ll have a special session next Tuesday and vote on premium relief,” Dayton said, a shot at Republicans who made MNsure’s struggles a central message of fall legislative campaigns — in which they held their House majority and won the Senate majority.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said the GOP is committed to fixing the state’s health insurance system. But he said the new offer Dayton released on Tuesday left too many Republican priorities out of the bonding bill in favor of projects Dayton wants.
“He’s acting like we’re at the beginning of negotiations rather than the end,” Daudt said.
Still, Daudt refused to put a final nail in the coffin of a special session in late December, and said he thinks Dayton is being premature with talk of a Thursday deadline to decide.