Gov. Dayton hopes to call special session by end of June

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -- Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders regrouped Tuesday in hopes of resurrecting a $260 million tax bill and other unfinished work in a potential special session, but the top politicians made clear any solutions won't come quickly or easily.

Fresh from the governor's decision not to sign the tax bill before Monday's midnight deadline, letting it die, the Democratic governor and lawmakers met briefly to determine whether compromise was possible. But they'll still have to soothe the over the size and scope of a public works package -- an integral part of a possible overtime session -- that led to its failure in the legislative session's final moments remain.

Teams of negotiators from the Republican-controlled House and Democrat-led Senate plan to start trying to work out those differences. The top leaders won't reconvene for a status check until next week.

"It probably is a good time for us to step back a little bit and not react," Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt said.

Despite Dayton's pocket veto of the tax relief package for college graduates, farmers and parents with childcare costs, the two sides are largely on the same page over how to fix it. A single word change could remove the prospect of losing $100 million --money meant to pay the state's share of the Minnesota Vikings' new stadium. Republicans have also agreed to restore a tax exemption for the state's high school league.

But Dayton also tied his final approval of the tax bill to the Legislature sending him a $1 billion-plus public works package, putting a premium on projects on the University of Minnesota campus and improvements at the state's security hospital.

"We need a special session," he told reporters earlier Tuesday. "I'm willing to compromise. I'm willing to meet them halfway."

Daudt and fellow Republicans blasted Dayton as being unreasonable, and said he held the tax bill hostage to squeeze more spending out of the Legislature. The two sides also still need to solve a the philosophical divide over funding a mass transit light-rail line to southwestern Minneapolis suburbs Democrats say it's essential, while GOP lawmakers have called it inefficient and unnecessary. That dispute led to the funding package's failure in the waning moments of the legislative session late last month.

Time is ticking for the two sides to come together. Dayton said his June timeline would help state officials implement new tax laws before a new fiscal year begins July 1.

There's plenty in the failed tax bill to spread around, from a tax credit for college graduates with loan debt, tax cuts for working families and a property tax exemption for the planned Major League Soccer stadium in St. Paul. After Dayton's veto, advocacy groups pressured the governor and both sides to sort out their impasse.

"If our state leaders can't even agree to do that, they better expect to get an earful from Minnesotans this summer," Robert Broeder, president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, said in a statement.