No Vikings’ stadium floor votes: legislative session could linger

By T.W. Budig, ECM Capitol Reporter

A looming legislative deadline is getting a little mushy.

Saturday, April 28, Republican leaders backed off a self-imposed Monday (April 30) adjournment date for ending the 2012 legislative session.

“It’s probably on the edge,” said Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, of lawmakers packing up and going home on Monday.

Currently, Republicans and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton have not yet reached agreement on a bonding bill or tax bill.

Although the Vikings stadium issue has been easily the most visible issue of the session, Republican leaders point to the tax bill — that’s No. 1 in the Senate Republican Caucus, Senjem explained — and to a lesser degree the bonding bill as ahead of the stadium on the to-do list.

“That’s all I hear,” said Senjem of talk of the tax bill in Senate Republican Caucus.

Dayton urged Republicans to take action on the Vikings stadium — House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, R-Minneapolis, promised House DFL support for half of the votes to pass the bill as currently written.

But Republican leaders criticized Dayton and Democrats for holding a press conference and urging a stadium vote.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, styled the Democrats’ stadium rhetoric “cheap politics.”

Republicans accused Dayton of being unwilling to negotiate on the tax and bonding bills — clearly the governor’s top priority is the Vikings’ stadium, said House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood.

Zellers described the Republican tax bill as offering “a nice little buffet” of tax reforms items for the governor to consider.

Republicans are willing, he indicated, to include a Dayton tax provision in the bill providing tax credits for businesses hiring veterans — Dayton wanted the job creation tax cuts to also include newcomers to the job market.

A statewide business property tax cut is centerpiece of the Republican tax initiative.

“If we can get that we’ll be feeling a lot better about the possibility of a stadium vote,” said Senjem of striking a deal with Dayton on the tax bill.

Republicans leaders suggest that they could move their tax bill to respective House and Senate floors on Monday even without an agreement with Dayton.

Dayton Administration spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci dismissed the idea the governor is unwilling to negotiate.

“We all know the governor is engaged,” said Tinucci, adding all the legislative leaders have each others phone numbers.

There’s thousands of Minnesota jobs riding on the outcome of negotiations, she explained.

There should be a vote on the stadium, said Tinucci.

Democrats are willing to put up votes, and Republicans themselves have been talking about closing the session on Monday, she said.

But Zellers, like Senjem, indicated a willingness to go beyond the self-imposed Monday end of session.

Both House and Senate adjourned Saturday until Monday at noon.

Legally, lawmakers have a small kitty of remaining legislative days — constitutionally they have just so many — they can use up before being forced to permanently adjourn by the state constitution.

Senjem said that he would available on Sunday for budget talks, but indicated there was nothing at present scheduled.

“Probably just me and the (State) Capitol ghosts,” he joked about who might be in the building.