Tax bill 'pocket veto' likely

- Governor Dayton has offered to meet with House Speaker Kurt Daut on Tuesday to discuss what’s about to happen Monday night.

As the clock ticks towards midnight, we get closer and closer to Governor Dayton putting into play one of the simplest powers of his office.  It’s called the “pocket veto.”

It’s called that because it has all the effects of a regular veto, but without any of the drama of outright rejection.  You don’t sign the bill, you just put in in your pocket, and it does not become law.

But the bill in question, which brings nearly $300 million in tax relief, means this simple action (or non-action) is about to create a lot more drama now two weeks after this year’s session officially ended.

“I think everybody can see what’s going on now,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt told reporters on Monday.  “The governor’s trying to use this bill as some sort of leverage.”

In a sense, he’s right.  Governor Dayton wants a special session to pass the bonding bill he did not get in the regular session.  And by not signing the tax bill, it pretty much forces Republicans to agree to a special session.   And that is because Dayton says a special session is the only way to fix a one-word error that is his reason for not signing the bill.

“I would have signed the tax bill had it been accurate,” Dayton told reporters on Friday.  But he says one word on page 120 of the 279 page bill will cost the state about $101 million a year.  In a paragraph about tax cuts for dedicated bingo halls, the word “or” was supposed to be “and.” 

“The correction is necessary and the $101 million error in the tax bill has to be corrected by the legislature in a special session,” he said on Friday.

But on Monday, House Republicans insisted that’s not necessary, that what is called a “legislative intent letter” would do the trick, which is simply a letter clarifying the intent of language.

“There is no reason not to sign the bill,” Rep. Greg Davids told reporters.  He’s the chair of the House Tax Committee and wrote the letter clarifying the language.  “Chairman’s letters, they’re beautiful things.”

Then, he lined up enough pens for the governor to sign his name one letter at a time, as is customary for bill signings.  “M…A…R…K,” Rep. Davids began counting through the pens.

Governor Dayton actually supports the tax cut bill.  Cuts would help college students, farmers, small business owners and veterans, all of whom spoke at the GOP news conference.  The bill helps the new pro soccer stadium in St. Paul and workers on the Iron Range and cuts tax rates for full-time charitable bingo halls.  And the list goes on.

He did promise to sign it, but insists he can’t with the one-word error, that it is not the type of thing that a letter can fix according to Minnesota law.  Late Monday, his spokesperson said there is no plan to change his mind.  The bill will go in his pocket.

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