WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 24, 2011, 01:25 PM

Dayton vetoes GOP budget, says shutdown is likely

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton a predicted a "strong likelihood" of a state government shutdown Tuesday after vetoing the Republican-controlled Legislature's budget and guaranteeing that a special session would be necessary to craft a new one.

The Democratic governor blamed the budget impasse on "extreme right-wing caucus members" in the Republican majorities. He struck down eight spending bills and a tax bill after repeatedly threatening to reject the bills without a budget deal. The action came less than 12 hours after lawmakers adjourned late Monday as required by the state constitution.

"The problem really resides with some of the extreme right-wing caucus members, especially some of the newcomers, who seemingly understand little about government and care even less," Dayton said at a Capitol news conference. "Unfortunately the leadership seems to be held captive to their extremism and whipped up by the Republican Party."

Minnesota is headed for its fifth budget-related special session since 2001, after differences over taxes and spending hardened into gridlock. The GOP-approved budget would have capped state spending at about $34 billion, the amount projected to come in over the next two years. Dayton instead proposed higher taxes for the top incomes to bring in $1.8 billion more.

The state has a two-year budget deficit projected at $5 billion.

Top GOP lawmakers were flying around the state Tuesday talking up their budget as Dayton rejected their bills.

"His prescription for economic recession and state budget deficits is more taxes and more spending, and Minnesotans cannot afford that," said Deputy Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, before the vetoes.

"We are not focused on a shutdown. We need to get a resolution with the governor," said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.

Dayton said he probably won't call lawmakers back to the Capitol until they reach a budget agreement. He said he expects to meet with top Republicans later this week or early next week.

In the meantime, his administration started planning for what would be only the second government shutdown in state history. Minnesota had a partial government shutdown that lasted eight days in 2005 after a budget deadlock between then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Republican; a split Legislature, the House under Republicans and Democrats running the Senate.

Dayton met with Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter and plans to discuss a potential shutdown at a Tuesday cabinet meeting. Schowalter said the executive branch can't spend without appropriations authorized by the Legislature, but would ask the courts to continue functions essential for public safety, such as prison staffing.

"The constitution says no dollars are spent from the treasury without an appropriation. Very clear," he said.

Unlike in 2005, a 2011 shutdown would involve virtually the entire budget. The only piece Dayton signed into law so far is a small $76 million budget for farm programs. Six years ago, only four major budget bills were involved — for taxes, schools, transportation and health and welfare programs.

Dayton said he is relying on public pressure to move the Republican legislative caucuses toward his position.

"I just really believe in my soul that Minnesotans are going to speak out now overwhelmingly and say, 'Enough of this. Enough of this kind of extremism, the unyielding, the intransigence,'" he said.

He added: "The sooner the legislators hear from the people of Minnesota, the better off we'll be."