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Dayton Likely to Quash Met Council Reforms Again

Most of the focus on potential gubernatorial vetoes concerns the tax and spending bills just sent to Gov. Mark Dayton’s desk. Yet another measure before the governor also faces a likely veto for the second year in a row.

A bill to shake up the Metropolitan Council passed with bipartisan support. But the Star Tribune reports Dayton will probably continue to shield the most powerful unelected regional government in the country from becoming more transparent and responsive to taxpayers.

“It goes to the point of representation and accountability,” said Rep. Tony Albright, R-Prior Lake, the House author. “Right now the Met Council has a constituency of one.”

Formed in 1967, the Met Council is one of the most powerful governments of its kind in the country. It oversees the seven-county metro area’s transit and wastewater systems, guides how cities use land, helps develop regional parks, and doles out federal transportation money.

The bill would convert the council from a 17-member body appointed by the governor to one led by a chair and 28 other people, most of whom are county commissioners and local elected officials. The bill’s authors kept a chair appointed by the governor, hoping to win support from Dayton.

Legislators reached out to Dayton but got nowhere on a compromise bill that had two DFL co-sponsors in the Minnesota Senate.

“I really wanted to make an overture to him to let him know we were serious about working with him on this issue,” said Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, the Senate sponsor.

Pressure continues to mount in the nation’s capital, as well, for the Met Council to get in line.

In Washington, D.C., Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minn., successfully amended a Federal Aviation Authority bill this spring to strip the council of its powers to dole out federal transportation funds absent elected officials on its board. The council’s structure is unlike other entities across the country that distribute federal transportation money, but its structure is grandfathered into federal law.

Meanwhile, the Met Council also faces harsh criticism over the now $2 billion proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit project, controversial planning policies and dysfunctional equity programs that have created a groundswell for change. Dayton may hold the line for now, but the longer it’s put off, the momentum to get the Met Council under control will likely only intensify.

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