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Train derails special session plans

ST. PAUL—Minnesotans will not get tax cuts and will not see road and other public construction projects begin after the governor and legislative leaders failed to agree on a special session agenda.

"I've concluded ... I am not going to call a special session," Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday afternoon following a negotiations session that produced no agreement on a divisive Twin Cities light rail construction proposal.

The project long has divided Democrats, who support the project in the southwestern Twin Cities, and Republicans, who say it is a waste of money and has not been properly vetted.

Nothing has changed for the two sides since lawmakers adjourned their regular session in May.

"It is past the point where we can have any more fruitful discussions," Dayton said, with the 2017 regular session due to begin in January.

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said the GOP is disappointed there will be no special session as Minnesotans will miss out on $500 million in a tax bill, much of which is tax cuts, and nearly $1 billion in funding for public works projects, including $700 million for road and bridge work.

"I think these decisions will hurt the Democrats this fall," Daudt said.

However, the speaker and governor said they have not made decisions about a special session based on the fall election, in which all 201 legislative seats are on the ballot but not Dayton.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Crown, said he gave Daudt options to fund light rail that Republicans might be able to stomach. However, Bakk said, "they have made no kind of a counter offer of any kind."

The public works bill failed in the final couple of minutes of the regular session when Senate Democrats tried to amend a light rail-related amendment onto it as the House adjourned. The tax bill passed, but Dayton vetoed it when a $100 million mistake was found.

Since May, legislative leaders and Dayton have met a few times, but never seemed to make any progress in resolving the light rail dispute.

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.