In an about face from the negotiated deal on the Legacy bill earlier this week, Gov. Mark Dayton has line-item vetoed two projects that the Legislature appropriated from the Outdoor Heritage Fund. In his letter to House Speaker Paul Thissen announcing the vetoes, Dayton acknowledged that he was going back on a deal that he, Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk reached at the beginning of the week shortly before the 2013 legislative session adjourned.
“This decision is extremely difficult for me,” Dayton said. “I attach great importance to keeping my word. Unfortunately, in this instance, I have given contradictory assurances to legislators during the past few days and to thousands of Minnesotans during the past few years. I have decided that I must honor my promise to those citizens.”
The vetoed projects are $6.3 million for habitat projects in the Metropolitan Council’s system and $3 million to local governments for aquatic invasive species. The House included the two projects in its Legacy bill. They were controversial because they weren’t recommended by the citizen-legislator Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The Senate’s bill was limited to the Lessard-Sams recommendations.
Dayton said the options appeared to be either to agree to the compromise or “jeopardize” the bill’s chance of becoming law. He said he decided to discard the deal after session when outdoors groups protested the two projects. Activists including former Minnesota Vikings coach pointed out that Dayton had said on the campaign trail that he wouldn’t change the Lessard-Sams choices.
“At that time, I hoped that the thousands of Minnesotans, who are deeply committed to the work of the Lessard-Sams Council, would accept our compromise,” Dayton said. “Since the bill’s passage, however, I have heard from many organizations, representing thousands of our citizens, who believe my approval of those two items would betray the promises I have made repeatedly during the past four years to respect the Council’s decisions.”
Dayton said the two vetoes don’t mean the projects lack support. He said, however, that the House Legacy Committee, led by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, “must work with its citizen councils, not against them.” He said he will ask the Lessard-Sams council to “reconsider” the two projects later this year when it recommends projects for approval by the 2014 legislative session. He also said that if the House Legacy Committee doesn’t “repair its relations” with Lessard-Sams, he has “serious doubts that a Legacy bill can be enacted in future legislative sessions.”