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Pioneer Editorial: Veto sets up budget battle front

Gov. Mark Dayton's move Thursday night to veto the $900 million state spending cuts bill had been targeted for a long time, and comes as no surprise.

Still, House and Senate Republicans rushed through with their bill, knowing it was veto bait, probably for no other reason than to test the new Democratic governor's will.

In an interview last week with the Pioneer, Gov. Dayton said, "I haven't used that word, (veto) but I will have to see what it finally looks like. I've stated what your editorial (Pioneer, Jan. 30) stated, that I think a piecemeal approach is the wrong approach, because it just isolates one or two parts of the budget and is a partial solution, when it's a $6.2 billion problem that requires a complete solution."

He cited three reasons, in his veto letter, with one being that a piecemeal approach to solving the budget is wrong. He even cited a letter from his predecessor, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, written last year telling the DFL Legislature that its budget bill "simply cannot be passed in a piecemeal fashion."

Gov. Dayton also cited the GOP bill as promoting huge property tax hikes of $428 million in the next biennium by cutting Local Government Aid to cities by $322 million and decreasing renter refunds for property tax relief by $106 million. "It would be a terrible mistake to target tax increases on the middle class, on seniors, on lower-income renters, and on small businesses, while largely protecting the wealthiest Minnesotans from paying a fairer share of taxes," the governor said in his veto message.

Third, Gov. Dayton questioned the constitutionality of the bill, saying that the GOP bill is unspecific of where $100 million would come from within state agencies. The Constitution requires the Legislature to specifically appropriate and it is up to the governor to sign or veto it.

For his part, the governor has issued a letter to state agencies that they not spend money that is not specifically targeted at this point, and return the unencumbered funds to the state treasury.

GOP lawmakers now need to take Gov. Dayton's proposed budget, due out next week, and propose their own which solves the $6.2 billion budget gap, vetting both budgets in public hearings in the open.

"The careful and reasoned consideration of all options, and the opportunity for those Minnesotans who will be affected by your decisions to be heard in public meetings of your committees, is the sound intent of the Minnesota Constitution in establishing a five-month legislative session," Gov. Dayton said. "Your rush to judgment on these matters disregards that proven wisdom."

And the Republican response to the veto? "Game on. Here we go." So much for the call for unity a day earlier.