A public summit Friday between Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, meant as a last-ditch effort to broker an agreement on a special legislative session, lasted all of 15 minutes before a frustrated Dayton gathered his papers and headed out the door.
“We can’t have a special session next Tuesday, even though the other three caucus leaders are agreeable to what we talked about two weeks ago,” he told an equally exasperated Daudt.
After some back and forth over plans to fix the problems in the state’s health insurance market, the speaker, left in a room full of reporters and television cameras, signaled he was done, too.
“Whatever,” he said. “That was about as productive as everybody expected. Good show for the media.”
After months of trading proposals and barbs — and numerous deadlines that went unheeded — the DFL governor and Republican speaker said it was clear they’d have to save some of the state’s most pressing issues for when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 3 — and not in the lingering days of December.
The acrimony on public display between Dayton and Daudt in recent days is a bad omen for bipartisan cooperation when the 2017 session gets underway with a governor of one party and a legislative majority from the other.
With a special session once tentatively set for Dec. 20, Dayton and lawmakers spoke of tackling a tax-cut bill, a public works spending plan and a proposal that would have provided subsidies to help the 121,000 Minnesotans who participate in the MNsure insurance market, where premiums are set to spike in the new year.
Two weeks ago the two sides appeared close to agreement. But both Dayton and Daudt accused the other of last-minute attempts to pack more provisions into their agreement than previously discussed.
By Thursday, Dayton said that the bonding and bills were off the table but that a session focused on health care was still possible. Daudt said that he supported Dayton’s plan, which would have provided a 25 percent rebate for some people insured through MNsure, but that it didn’t go far enough — and took the easy way out of a bigger problem.
In a news conference earlier Friday, Daudt told reporters he was frustrated by both Dayton’s plans and his tactics. Those included the governor repeatedly pointing out that he could not reach Daudt for negotiations because the speaker was attending a legislative conference in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Said Daudt: “I didn’t call the governor back because I was on a damn airplane getting back here so I could face him.”
Daudt said a fix for rising health care premiums and other pressing insurance issues would now have to wait until January.
“When the clock resets on Jan. 3, you will see the adults, the Republicans that Minnesota has elected to solve those problems, come up with real solutions. Not just write a check. That’s the least creative thing that the governor could come up with.”
Dayton said he had carefully vetted his proposals through extensive conversations with health care experts, and was faced with a series of plans from Daudt that were presented at the last minute and without similar legwork.
“They have nothing that would bring relief sooner to the people who need it, in fact it would likely delay it,” he said, calling the situation “a shame.”
The governor said he’s acknowledged the shortcomings of the Affordable Care Act, which he supported, but was frustrated that House Republicans were unwilling to fix problems it created.
“The speaker is absolutely right when he says I and others are responsible for creating the situation,” Dayton said. “But the fact is, that’s the situation we’re in. They campaigned on that, they won the Legislature on that, but at some point they have to get off that and say: What can we do to fix the problem?”
While health care is likely to be among the first topics debated in January, Daudt said it’s unlikely the Legislature will take up a public works package for another year.