MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature are at an impasse over a bitter budget battle that’s threatening hundreds of House and Senate jobs, according to the court-appointed mediator.
The mediator, retired Hennepin County District Judge Rick Solum, released a statement Friday, saying he “concluded that the mediation was at impasse, the understandable views of the parties being irreconcilable.”
Here’s the statement in full:
“The leaders of the Minnesota Legislature and the Governor of Minnesota, along with their staffs and counsel, participated in a mediation on September 21st and 22nd. After the parties expended significant efforts and exchanged proposals through a full day of mediation on the 21st and a half day on the 22nd, I concluded that the mediation was at impasse, the understandable views of the parties being irreconcilable. The parties, through their counsel, will be reporting to the Supreme Court in compliance with the Court’s order.”
It all began when Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the Legislature’s operating budget to force Republicans back to the bargaining table over budget bills he didn’t like. The Minnesota Supreme Court didn’t make a definitive ruling on whether that move was legal earlier in September but ordered them to hire a mediator to work it out.
Currently, there’s no agreement in sight, and the Legislature is set to run out of money beginning Oct. 1.
As it stands, the Legislature has enough money in reserve to continue operations until Dec. 1. After that, the jobs of hundreds of staffers are in jeopardy.
One Republican lawmaker compares Dayton’s tactics to hostage taking.
“There could be potential hostage taking situation here where if this issue is not resolved, there are going to be a lot of state employees who are laid off,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, of Farmington, said.
Dayton issued a statement Friday afternoon regarding the mediation:
“I thank our Mediator, former Judge Rick Solum, for his concerted efforts over the past two days to help the Legislature and our Administration negotiate a settlement of the issues that have divided us. For the past four months, I have advocated for just such a negotiated agreement.
“I have said repeatedly that my reason for exercising my Constitutional line-item veto of some of the Legislature’s biennial appropriation was to require them to revise their 2017 tax bill, which I believe will seriously jeopardize Minnesota government’s future financial stability. Republican legislative leaders have said repeatedly that the reason for their lawsuit was to provide them with sufficient funds to operate in this biennium.
“I was not surprised by the intransigence of Republican legislative leaders during this attempted mediation. But the reason for their intransigence was a surprise. They have now revealed that they already have more than enough money to operate both the House and the Senate at their projected levels of spending, until they reconvene in Session next February.
“Their cash surplus contradicts the high drama they have been manufacturing during the past four months. Just today one of their members asserted, ‘…the governor used his line-item veto power to eliminate funding for the Legislature, effectively abolishing the legislative branch.’
“Their current cash position also contradicts the assertions made in their filing with the Minnesota Supreme Court this past week. It stated, ‘Assuming the House and Senate spend as anticipated through October 1, 2017, and only begin using their carryforward funds thereafter, the anticipated date carryforward funds will be exhausted is as follows: House: After payment of payroll on February 1, 2018. Senate: After payment of payroll on December 1, 2017.’
“However, this statement fails to disclose what the Republican legislative leaders have known – or should have known – for some time. In addition to their carry-forward funds, they have stated they will use the Legislative Coordinating Commission’s biennial carry-forward monies of over $3.6 million and appropriation of over $35 million to completely fund their expected operating expenses until they return to Session next year. They admit their Legislative Counsel has advised them that they can do so.
“Republican leaders have claimed repeatedly that they had to file their lawsuit and cost taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees, to prevent the Legislature from being ‘abolished’ by my vetoes depriving them of operating funds. Now, after the Court forced their financial disclosure, we learn their claim is untrue.
“They owe the Minnesota Supreme Court and the people of Minnesota an honest explanation of why they have dragged all of us into their costly theatrics over the past four months.”