Gov. Mark Dayton and lawmakers from both parties gathered Thursday to discuss what's coming up in the new legislative session – and the arguments sounded much like those of the last one.
The preview of the legislative session was often combative, with leaders struggling to express confidence they'll be able to agree on some key issues during a shortened 10-week session, the Session Daily reports. (Watch the entire forum here.)
The Legislature, which convenes March 8, is expected to resume unfinished work from last year, including a tax bill and a comprehensive transportation package, which didn't get passed last year because lawmakers couldn't agree on how to pay for it.
Transportation is again a priority for both Republicans and Democrats this year.
“There are two things on which most Minnesotans agree: We need to make a greater investment in improving our roads, bridges, public transit. The second is nobody wants to pay for it,” Dayton said, according to the Session Daily.
The Democratic governor and House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Republican, clashed over how to fund repair work on Minnesota's failing roads and bridges. A GOP-backed plan says the state should use the budget surplus, while DFL leaders are pushing for a gas tax increase.
These same disagreements kept them from a deal last year.
Dayton and Daudt also argued about education (watch video of that via the UpTake here), social security income tax, tax relief and business, reports note.
They did agree on some things
Republicans and Democrats said they want to work quickly to extend unemployment benefits for laid-off workers on the Iron Range.
Leaders are confident a bill will be passed in the first week of the session, Session Daily says. But Daudt wants to do more than just pass a bill that helps people now – he wants to pass something that will help workers in the long run, MPR News reports.
Lawmakers are also expected to take up the Real ID issue early in the session. Minnesota's driver's licenses and state ID cards aren't compliant with federal standards. And if lawmakers don't agree on how to fix it, Minnesotans won't be able to use their standard driver's license to board an airplane.
There has also been talk to come up with a plan to address the state's racial disparities – one lawmaker has already laid out his idea to help close social, economic and educational gaps – but Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, says it could be hard to get done in the shortened session, the Session Daily reports.