Don Davis, Forum News Service, Published August 21 2013
Minnesota political notebook: Special session needed after allST. PAUL – Minnesota’s governor and legislative leaders tried to get out of a special session to fund disaster relief, but state law would not let them.
Gov. Mark Dayton said Tuesday that state law does not allow the state to use money unspent from earlier disasters to pay less than $5 million expected to be needed by local governments in 18 counties hit by June 20-26 storms and floods. Legislators and Dayton decided Friday to investigate whether they could avoid a special legislative session by using the unused funds.
Dayton and four legislative leaders plan a morning meeting today to discuss specifically what will be taken up in a Sept. 9 special session.
The governor requires Democratic and Republican leaders sign an agreement about what they will allow to be debated during the special session. State law gives the governor the sole ability to call a session, but legislators can make up their own agenda.
House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, suggested removing a newly enacted sales tax on farm equipment repair. Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, agreed that the farm tax should be the only item besides disaster relief at next month’s session.
However, Republicans and business leaders want lawmakers to overturn other business taxes the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved this spring.
Dayton has said he would accept ending other taxes if advocates can find money the taxes would have brought the state.
The farm tax costs farmers $2 million a month, Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans said. Dayton said no special action is needed to make up that amount.
Republicans demand that public hearings be held on any tax changes before the special session, which would be limited to one day.
The federal government will pay about three-quarters of disaster recovery costs, but the state must chip in its part.
Smokes to the rescue
A new tobacco tax is bringing in enough revenue to fund the first year’s Minnesota Vikings stadium state payments after a plan to obtain increased revenue from electronic pulltabs fell far short.
A Tuesday state Revenue Department report shows about $30 million will be available from a one-time tax lawmakers put on existing cigarette stocks.
The department said $26.5 million of that will be available for stadium funding, with the rest headed to the state General Fund.
The money will be available in September, at least a month before groundbreaking on the nearly $1 billion downtown Minneapolis stadium.
The $26.5 million is well above state estimates of what will be needed in the next year.
Funds from closing a corporate tax break will help pay future stadium bills. That is expected to bring in $20 million a year, which will be supplemented by other revenue sources.
No running mate hurry
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon is in no hurry to let her boss know if she will run again in 2014.
“I am really resistant to starting a campaign a year and a half out,” Prettner Solon told reporters after she led a Tuesday Capitol security meeting. “I don’t have to make a decision at this time.”
She said that she does not plan to decide on a second lieutenant governor run until early next year.
When Gov. Mark Dayton talked to reporters Tuesday, he said the decision is up to Prettner Solon and he did not expect to talk to her about it for some time.
Prettner Solon said the two seldom talk.
“We don’t talk very often,” she said. “We talk to our policy staff.”
In a MinnPost online newspaper story last week, Prettner Solon sounded upset with Dayton for lack of communication and her not being given a big enough role in the administration.
“I like what I am doing,” Prettner Solon said Tuesday, but neither she nor Dayton commented on their relationship.
Prettner Solon, a former state senator from Duluth, said she has “no intention of leaving early” and that she will decide about a second term based on what she sees as its benefits.