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The governor will let budget bills become law – but the drama isn't over

Dayton is accusing Republican lawmakers of sneaking in a 'poison pill' – and is taking action to force them back to the table.

The governor isn't necessarily happy about any of the budget bills the Republican-controlled Legislature gave to him.

But all of them will become law of the land. Mark Dayton announced Tuesday afternoon he will sign all but one of the nine budget bills. Later that day, the governor's office said Dayton will in fact sign every bill, including the tax bill he has serious problems with.

The reason? The attorney general sent him a letter that led to "uncertainty" about the course of action they wanted to take. Dayton's office said in a statement that "to remove any doubt," he will sign the tax bill. But his concerns (laid out below) still stand.

By allowing the big budget bills to take effect, the state avoids its first government shutdown since 2011, something Dayton said factored into his decisions.

Noting the state went through "20 tumultuous days" during that previous shutdown, the governor said even the threat of another one would cause "enormous uncertainties and disruptions" for Minnesotans. He also said – based on previous experience – it's "extremely unrealistic" to expect better results from negotiations that stretched through June.

The problems with the tax bill

His biggest gripe came with the tax bill, which includes $650 million in tax cuts for Minnesotans over the next two years. Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt touted it as the largest tax cut in nearly two decades for Minnesota families.

But in his letter explaining his decision Dayton argues it puts Minnesota on risky financial footing in the future, returning the state to the same policies that had it facing a $2.6 billion deficit when Dayton took office in 2011. (Officials are currently forecasting a $1.7 billion surplus.)

He also called out estate tax cuts, tax cuts for large business, and the elimination of a tax inflator on cigarettes plus a tax cut for premium cigars as things he's specifically unhappy with.

And there's a 'poison pill' – so no money for legislators

The governor is also accusing Republican lawmakers of sneaking a "poison pill" into the language. Dayton argues because of this, if he didn't let the tax bill become law, it would have resulted in no funding for the state's Department of Revenue.

Dayton says this "poison pill" was added without his knowledge, and accused Republicans of purposely holding back documents to keep it hidden. He calls it "reprehensible," and says it "shatters whatever trust we achieved."

In response, he decided to line-item veto (that's when the governor vetoes a small piece of a bill, rather than the whole thing) funding for the state House and Senate, in both 2018-19, and 2020-21.

"Your job has not been satisfactorily completed, so I am calling on you to finish your work," he writes.

So there's no money for the state legislature – unless lawmakers agree to a list of demands Dayton has, and agree to address them in a special session (which the governor will only call if they agree to those demands). That includes undoing some of the tax breaks that were approved in the tax bill.

Republican Rep. Marion O'Neill tweeted: "If this isn't unconstitutional, I don't know what is."

Other things of note

You can read the governor's other letters, explaining why he's signing the bills but what he's happy and unhappy with, at this link.

There's only one bill he is outright vetoing, and it's the bill he promised he would block: the so-called "preemption" bill that prohibits cities from setting their own minimum wage or sick leave laws.

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