Dayton: Willing to call special session if conditions met

Published 9:42 am Thursday, June 2, 2016

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday spelled out the conditions under which he would call a special session, including spending millions more dollars on transportation and construction projects.

The Democrat also specified several supplemental budget items, including a $42 million funding boost for state colleges next year, $31 million to enhance doctor and dentist training and residencies in Greater Minnesota and nearly $100 million to boost staffing at the St. Peter security hospital.

Dayton also said he won’t sign a package of tax cuts that includes a drafting error that puts some $102 million in taxes on charitable gambling in jeopardy. Failure to fix the error would put in doubt money that the state has counted on to help pay its share of the new Vikings stadium, and would require imposing a stadium suite rental tax of as much as 10 percent, Dayton wrote in a news release.

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House Speaker Kurt Daudt said Dayton’s demand for more spending would go over badly with the Republican caucus, and that he’s willing to be flexible if the governor is.

“If he’s not or he has to have everything exactly the way he wants it or he is not going to call a special session, it’s probably going to be difficult to get there and I think that’s really unfortunate,” he said.

Daudt said the tax bill drafting error could be fixed without needing a special session if a tax exemption is reinstated for the state high school league. Dayton had accused Republicans of dropping that because of a policy change that opened girls’ sports to transgender athletes. The exemption helps fund scholarships for low-income students.

Dayton said a $300 million transportation funding plan favored by House Republicans was “embarrassingly short of what is required” and said many of the GOP’s favored projects were not shovel-ready. He added that a special session agreement on transportation funding must include spending on mass transit projects to relieve congestion in the metro area. Dayton says the state’s long-term transportation need is $600 million annually for the next decade.

Dayton did sign a supplemental budget bill that funded several of his priorities, including $25 million for statewide voluntary pre-kindergarten, $35 million to expand rural broadband and $35 million for programs aimed at racial economic disparities.