Defund the Legislature? ‘See you in court,’ Daudt tells Dayton

Published 1:06 pm Saturday, June 3, 2017

ST. PAUL — GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt made it clear Friday that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s move to eliminate the Legislature’s funding in retaliation over Republican maneuvering is headed for a legal fight.

Dayton and Daudt made back-to-back appearances on MPR News just before leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature voted to authorize spending on a private attorney.

“See you in court, governor,” Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said at the end of his interview.

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It stems from Dayton’s line-item veto of all funding to run the House and Senate the next two years. The governor said he felt betrayed by a provision in the same bill that would have wiped out money for his Department of Revenue unless he consented to a tax-cut package, which he did.

“If the governor feels like what we did to him was wrong, he missed his opportunity already. He should have vetoed those bills. That was his constitutional right to veto those bills and call us back to fix that,” Daudt said. “He chose not to do that. He signed them and then is punitively trying to eliminate the Legislature.”

Dayton said he is trying to set the stage for new negotiations over a special session where the Legislature’s funding could be restored and he could try to undo some of the items he didn’t like in the signed bills.

“I don’t want to ultimately defund the Legislature, the House and the Senate,” Dayton said, adding, “I want to get their attention and hopefully get the attention of Minnesotans focused on why these measures would be so detrimental to the future of our state.”

The governor said he thinks the tax bill is unsustainable because business breaks will grow over time. He’s also upset over a freeze in cigarette taxes, which were due to rise, and a cut in the rate assessed on premium cigars, which was slashed.

On policy, Dayton wants to revisit changes in the teacher licensure system and strip out a new law that strictly bars issuance of driver’s licenses to immigrants living in the country without proper documentation.

While Dayton pointed earlier in the week to the Department of Revenue funding trigger in a state government finance bill, he downplayed that provision’s role in striking down the operating budget of the Legislature.

Any litigation, he said, will be sparked by lawmakers, not him. He said his preference is to get back to the bargaining table.

“I’m not doing this to occupy my summer months; I’m not doing it to retaliate against some petty maneuver the Legislature pulled at the end of the session,” Dayton said. “I’m doing this because I think this is what’s right for Minnesota, and it’s what I base my decision on.”

Daudt said the items Dayton wants to hash over were part of hard-fought compromises on both sides.

“You know he agreed to all of those provisions, every single one of them — personally, not through staff,” Daudt said. “Things were traded away or things were agreed to, either we gave him things or we agreed not to move other things forward if he were to give us these provisions.”

He added, “We just think it’s not right that after he made an agreement now to try to use this sort of leverage and renegotiate that. Frankly, it’s just wrong and someone needs to stand up to the governor and hold him accountable and we’re going to do that.”

When a lawsuit is filed, taxpayer money will be used to pay the Legislature’s lawyers and the governor’s defense, which would likely be handled by the attorney general.