Governor Dayton’s Attempt to De-Fund the GOP Legislature: Troubling Tactics, Apocalyptic Prose and Fake Federalism

I hope you did not stay up late last night to find out what Gov. Dayton was going to do about the budget bills before him. Going to bed seemed like a better idea and it was. It was all waiting for us at daybreak (thank you to people who did stay up to digest it all).

I was delighted to hear that Dayton appears to have realized that he had to accept the budget deal he negotiated; that it was a true compromise.

Unfortunately, Gov. Dayton could not just leave it at that.

To prove his undying commitment to the public union officials that control most of the funds spent on the DFL, and against the GOP, he came up with what I am sure seemed clever at the time.

Governor Dayton used the line-item veto to cancel appropriations for the House and Senate for FY 2018-2019 and FY 2020-2021.

Yes, the governor of Minnesota has attempted to de-fund the state legislature, an equal branch of the government. Someone needs to explain Separation of Powers to Dayton and his staff.

He did this in retaliation: the GOP put funding for the Department of Revenue (an executive agency) into a bill funding state government.  Dayton said, “I consider this provision, snuck into the State Government bill without my knowledge, to be a reprehensible sneak attack, which shatters whatever trust we achieved during the Session….” Apparently, that provision was missed by the folks at the Department of Revenue. They missed their own funding.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Dayton’s retaliatory move will most likely be resolved in the courts, potentially very quickly. Time is of the essence; the House and Senate are low on funds and the fiscal year ends June 30. I teased some lawmakers today by saying that the prospect of no legislative session in 2018 had considerable charms, and maybe they should call Dayton’s bluff and make him a lame duck his last year in office. They did not think I was very funny.

Like a critical parent, Dayton dressed down GOP leaders in a dramatic letter, punctuated with emotional, apocalyptic language, saying,

Your job has not been satisfactorily completed, so I am calling on you to finish your work. However, I will allow a Special Session only if you agree to remove the following provisions, which are extremely destructive to Minnesota’s future….

(I will abbreviate his rambling demands; you can read it all right here. It is a road map to the interest groups that were unhappy with his decision not to veto the bills.)

Eliminate the Tobacco Tax Breaks…Especially galling, and indefensible, is the tax break for premium cigars…a special tax break for some special, money friends.

Cancel the Estate Tax Exclusion Increases…. those millionaires, whose preoccupations are to avoid paying taxes, will continue to find other states, who offer them better Estate Tax avoidance.

C-1 Property Tax Freeze. I support exclusion the first $100,000 of business property from statewide property taxes…however freezing the levy has disastrous effects in future years…It is unfortunate that your last-minute treachery has left me no other option but either to passively permit those tax provisions to become law and decimate our future…or take this action.

Driver’s License Provision…which prohibits undocumented immigrants from obtaining drivers licenses is…completely redundant, and therefore, unnecessary…. a strategic attack against people…might be politically advantageous to you (it must be, or you wouldn’t have done it)….

I also insist you re-open and re-negotiate the Teacher Licensure provision…some provisions undermine the high professional standards that have served Minnesota’s schoolchildren extremely well.

The governor of Minnesota has attempted to de-fund the state legislature, an equal branch of the government. Like a critical parent, Dayton dressed down GOP leaders in a dramatic letter, punctuated with emotional, apocalyptic language.

Negotiating is what the Legislature has been doing for 5 months. Now is not the time to re-open and re-negotiate.

It is interesting. Dayton did veto a bill introduced late in the game that was classic political sausage. It has a lot of what Dayton wanted: a 6-week paid parental leave provision for state employees (huge victory for government unions), pension reforms that tracked Dayton’s own Blue Ribbon pension recommendations and language that clarified and expanded the statute on “wage theft.”

But it contained one item that he had promised to veto: “pre-emption” language that asserted the state’s power to decide matters such as minimum wage and other benefits. The state might yet be found to already have already pre-empted local governments from setting $15 an hour minimum wages, etc. That lawsuit is in progress to stop Minneapolis and St. Paul from creating a patchwork of confusing and onerous laws that will make them even less attractive and more inhospitable to restaurants and other businesses.

It is fascinating to hear the Left make the case for “local control.” I was talking to attorney Doug Seaton this morning about this latest move by the Left to co-opt an inherently conservative idea. He coined a new term that I liked: Fake Federalism.