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Dayton: 'We can't agree on anything'

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday morning expressed hope that he would be able to call a special legislative session to finish work Minnesota lawmakers failed to accomplish as their regular session ended last month, but used words like "discouraged" more than optimistic comments when talking to reporters.

"This is why I get discouraged about the possibility of a special session: We can't agree on anything," the Democratic governor said about his relationship with the Republican House majority.

Dayton was to host legislative leaders in a negotiation session later in the day, saying he is willing to compromise, even on a list of what he had called requirements for a special session. However, the governor continued to insist that any special session include fixing tax legislation that he pocket-vetoed at Monday midnight as well as considering a public works finance bill.

"My message to legislators today is come back and finish your work..." Dayton said. "I am willing to meet the House Republican caucus halfway between our positions."

On Monday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said that he was open to discussing items fellow Republicans oppose, such as increased transit funding.

However, Dayton said that he does not expect a long-term transportation funding plan to emerge from a special session, given the deep Democratic-Republican split on the issue.

Dayton said he has dealt with Republicans leading up to special sessions before, such as last year and 2011, and that has not gone well.

"I am going to remain hopeful, but I also am a realist..." the governor said. "I am willing to go half way; if they are willing to do the same, we will get this accomplished."

A $1 billion public works financing bill, including transportation projects, failed as the regular session expired. A late-session tax bill, providing breaks to many Minnesotans, contained a mistake that could cost the state $101 million. Dayton said he could not sign the bill with that big of an error.

Dayton said he wants a special session to fix the tax mistake and to restore a tax break that allowed the Minnesota High School League to provide scholarships for low-income students with money that otherwise would have gone to pay taxes.

But he also insists that a special session authorize public works projects.

GOP greater Minnesota legislators and organizations on Tuesday complained that Dayton allowed the tax bill to die.

"Families, veterans, farmers, small businesses and border communities like East Grand Forks would have seen significant tax relief if this bill was signed into law, but instead the governor chose to play politics with your money," Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston.

Added Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau: "From reducing the cost of childcare to helping local Main Street businesses, the tax bill had something for just about everyone."

The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities president said his group is "profoundly disappointed" with the tax veto.

"If a special session is required to fix the problems with the tax bill, then that is what should happen," Le Sueur Mayor Robert Broeder said. "Even if the governor and legislators can’t come to an agreement on other issues like bonding and transportation, they should at least have a special session to fix a typo in an otherwise strong bill."