They weren’t exactly singing “Home on the Range.”
Gov. Mark Dayton and the leaders of the Republican caucuses in the Minnesota Legislature uttered plenty of discouraging words Tuesday after another meeting meant to plot a course toward a special session.
Dayton emerged from the closed-door gathering of legislative leaders at his temporary offices in the Veterans Service Building in St. Paul saying he felt “much more discouraged” than when he went into the meeting less than an hour before.
“I’m beginning to think the Republican caucuses don’t want a special session,” the governor said.
A few minutes later, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, took his turn before news media microphones to offer an opposite echo of Dayton’s statement, nearly word for word.
“I’m beginning to believe that Democrats don’t want a special session,” Daudt said.
The speaker characterized the negotiating room as overcrowded with DFLers and said he saw “too much puffing up of chests and not enough rolling up of sleeves.”
Senate Majority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said the omnibus tax bill (Chapter 188, HF 848) that legislators passed on the last day of session, and the bonding bill (HF 622) that passed in mismatched versions in the final minutes before the deadline “were compromise bills.”
Dayton vetoed the tax bill because of a one-word error he said would cost $100 million in lost revenue, and he has a list of programs and projects he wants Republicans to agree to fund before he will call a special session.
Daudt said Dayton was moving the goalposts.
“Negotiate to halfway, then negotiate to halfway again? Sorry, that’s not the way negotiations work,” he said.
But Dayton accused Republicans of bringing fresh demands to Tuesday’s meeting — bills on school tax credits and pre-emption of local governments from enacting ordinances on wages and benefits.
“They know better,” said Dayton, calling the day’s exchange “a significant step backward.” He said it was Daudt’s turn to call the next meeting and set the agenda.
Daudt for his part said he remained “very optimistic that we’re going to have a special session.” Dayton, he predicted, will not in the end “walk away from” road and bridge funding in the bonding bill.