Speaker: Session could be tough

House speaker Daudt says relationship with Dayton ‘damaged’

ST. PAUL — Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Kurt Daudt will enter 2017 with a “damaged relationship,” the Republican speaker said Monday, foreshadowing difficulty at the Capitol when the Legislature is charged with passing a two-year budget and address other key priorities.

Daudt’s comments came during a panel with fellow legislative leaders meant to preview next year’s session. Instead, much of the 90-minute question-and-answer spree focused on the past, including a public spat between Daudt and Dayton last week and the failure of a special session to tackle rising health care costs.

The pair exchanged blame last week, and Daudt rehashed that public feud and other disagreements with Dayton on Monday.

“The governor is going to need to fix that if he’s going to have a successful last two years in office,” Daudt said.

Dayton couldn’t attend Monday’s briefing due to an illness, and declined through a spokesman to respond to the speaker’s comments.

Their relationship is no small matter: Daudt will join the Democratic governor at the negotiating table as session winds down, striking deals on a two-year state budget that may approach $45 billion. As it has in years past, failure to reach agreement could mean a government shutdown.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said the pair need to get on better terms.

“If it’s not figured out by June 30, portions of state government start to shut down,” he said.

After a brewing deal to offer rebates to offset double-digit premium increases on the individual health insurance market collapsed last week, Dayton noted that his relationship with Daudt was primed to make 2017 a difficult year. Dayton accused Daudt of reneging on parts of a deal that would have also revived a tax relief package and $1 billion in construction projects, while Daudt again blamed Dayton Monday for shifting the terms of a fragile agreement for its failure.

2017 will be difficult for Dayton in more ways than one.

After four years having an ally in the Democratic-controlled Senate, Dayton will be outnumbered by the GOP for at least the next two years as Republicans take control of the Senate.

Incoming Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka promised a “change in tone” from his side when working with the governor, hoping that paves the way to a deal for long-term transportation funding that has eluded the Legislature for years.

Bakk warned Daudt to tread carefully with Dayton for the next two years, after which Dayton has vowed he’ll leave office.

“Never underestimate a governor’s resolve if he’s not running again. This is Gov. Dayton’s last chance to leave some kind of mark on Minnesota after a long career,” Bakk said.


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