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Dayton sets special-session conditions

Gov. Mark Dayton outlined his conditions for calling legislators back to St. Paul in a letter to House and Senate leaders Wednesday. A special session could happen as early as next week, he said, depending on their response.

In 16 bullet points, Dayton detailed projects and programs he wants DFL and Republican caucus leaders to agree to — from $34 million for design and construction of a new visitors’ center at Fort Snelling to $66.7 million in bonding for University of Minnesota health sciences education facilities.

Transportation ranks high on the governor’s to-do list. “Before I call a special session, I believe it is essential for the Senate and House to first revise and reconcile the transportation sections of the bonding bills,” Dayton wrote.

In a press conference, he called $300 million in bonding for transportation “a fig leaf over the failure to pass a comprehensive bill.”

On Southwest light rail, Dayton said legislation at a minimum should let local units of government raise additional money needed, but he said transit needs go well beyond that project.

Earlier in the day, Dayton signed the $300 million supplemental budget bill, resolving one of the outstanding issues from the legislative session, which ended May 23. The bill included money for three Dayton priorities: $25 million for pre-kindergarten education; $35 million for broadband access; and $35 million to close economic gaps between racial groups.

But Dayton said two problems prevented him from signing the tax bill, with its $260 million in tax relief, that legislators sent him in the session’s final days.

State revenue officials found a one-word error in the tax bill regarding charitable gaming taxes they said would cost the state more than $102.4 million in lost revenue over the next three years.

The House speaker, Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, assented to both demands in a letter back. He told reporters his majority caucus would be “happy to agree” to resolve both problems and urged Dayton to sign the tax bill on that assurance.

A letter of intent by the bill’s chief authors would take care of the drafting error until the Legislature’s next opportunity to fix it, Daudt said. Dayton was skeptical, saying Minnesota’s status as a “strict-construction state” means courts might uphold the language of the tax bill as written, including the error, unless lawmakers pass new language changing it.

About Chris Steller

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