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Failure to communicate deepens

Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt talks about a potential special session on Dec. 2, 2016. With him are Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, left, and Gov. Mark Dayton. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

ST. PAUL — High-level Minnesota state negotiations just are not working.

As they tried to strike a special session deal — or tried not to, some say — the two key players continually could not agree on what they had agreed to. They could not agree if the other person had returned calls. They debated by letters and through the media instead of sitting down face to face.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt used to say they liked each other. Now they all but call each other a liar.

With the 2017 regular session days away, where the two must lead the job of producing a two-year state budget, questions arise about how much can get done. Special session talks started soon after the regular session ended in May.

Dayton said that Daudt and other Republicans offered no constructive ideas during special session talks.

"You can't negotiate to people who just complain, complain," an upset governor said.

Daudt, on the other hand, said Dayton kept changing what he wanted in bills that could come up during a special session.

"He needs to live up to what he says," the speaker said.

Negotiations went on behind closed doors, sometimes with just Daudt, Dayton and a few loyal aides. Other times, more legislative leaders and staff members were there.

"These are not productive," Dayton told reporters, who wondered if he and leaders should meet in public.

"I am not saying I would never hold a meeting that is closed to the press, but I definitely am thinking about that," the governor said.

That is one thing he and Daudt apparently have in common.

"I would be happy to negotiate with you all in the room," Daudt told reporters Friday, which is what happened a few hours later.

However, when Tim Pawlenty was governor, negotiations with the press watching did not go well and they ended after a few sessions. In those meetings, negotiators spent most of their time posturing, making statements more aimed at the public than each other.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.