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Special Minnesota session more likely as Dayton gives up auditor fight

ST. PAUL -- Gov. Mark Dayton gave up his last major must-do item for a special Minnesota legislative session, setting up the possibility that lawmakers can pass the rest of the state budget later this week. Ending his fight to retain the state au...

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Gov. Mark Dayton says on Monday, June 8, 2015, that in order to finish passing the Minnesota state budget that he will give up his requirement that a new law cutting the state's auditor's power be overturned. (Forum News Service photo by Don Davis)

 

ST. PAUL - Gov. Mark Dayton gave up his last major must-do item for a special Minnesota legislative session, setting up the possibility that lawmakers can pass the rest of the state budget later this week.

Ending his fight to retain the state auditor's authority to audit county finances, at least for now, Dayton said Monday three less controversial issues remain to be solved. He said the work should not take long, but added that recent negotiations should teach him not to be optimistic.

The Democratic governor said he knows Republicans will not give up their demand that counties have the right to hire private audit firms instead of the state auditor reviewing their finances.

"I learned before that I can't match the intransigence of Republicans," Dayton said.

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His announcement Monday comes a week after he said he would give up on his year's top priority: establishing a program to send Minnesota 4-year-olds to school.

It came hours after House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, used his strongest language yet that he would not allow the auditor change to pass a special session.

"There will be no action taken on this issue in special session," Daudt said. "Period."

After the Dayton announcement, the speaker issued a statement that that said he looked forward to final negotiations to set up the special session.

Three issues remain unresolved in a jobs-economic development-energy bill, Dayton said.

The governor wants a provision rewritten or removed from the bill that expands taconite and wood products industries' electric rate breaks to other large industries "at the expense of residential and small business ratepayers."

Dayton also wants $5 million for programs to help the disabled and mentally ill and he seeks provisions to make sure Minnesotans get financial benefits for using wind or solar power in their homes and businesses.

Daudt said earlier in the day that four provisions remained unresolved, but did not specify them. He said that Republicans and the governor were close to finding solutions.

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Dayton suggested that his staff and legislative staff work out the final details, then he would call in the four legislative leaders so the five could sign a document indicating what would pass in a special session. Only then, he said, would he call a session.

The governor said the overtime session could be late this week.

After the regular session ended May 18, the governor signed five spending bills, part of a $42 billion, two-year state budget.

He vetoed three bills, which if not passed by July 1 would result in a partial state government shutdown and layoff of thousands of state workers. The biggest bill he vetoed was the $17 billion education package.

A special session is needed to repass the three vetoed bills, approve public works funding legislation and pass a measure paying for outdoors and arts projects.

Dayton, a former state auditor, said he would resume his efforts to keep the auditor in charge of county audits, hinting it would be easier if Democrats win back control of the House in 2017.

Current Auditor Rebecca Otto, a Democrat, has been running a social media campaign to keep her powers as they are.

"I will continue to fight this unjust gutting of a constitutional office that belongs to the people of Minnesota, which happened in the middle of the night," Otto wrote on Facebook after Dayton's announcement. "I will pursue every avenue to restore oversight of Minnesotans hard-earned money."

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Dayton called the auditor provision a "massacre" of the office.

The state Constitution gives the Legislature power to decide the auditor's duties.

Dayton signed the overall bill containing the auditor measure into law last month, and immediately said he wanted the Legislature to overturn the auditor portion.

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