Governor Calls for Swift Action on Pensions and for Fiscal Responsibility

4-12-2018
AFSCME members and retirees gather to watch as a bipartisan bill to strengthen our pension systems for decades to come takes an important first step.
AFSCME members and retirees gather to watch as a bipartisan bill to strengthen our pension systems for decades to come takes an important first step.

Gov. Mark Dayton is asking Republicans to make passing the pension bill their “first order of business.”

Pointing out that the omnibus retirement bill already passed the state Senate 66-0 and has strong bipartisan support, Dayton asked House Speaker Kurt Daudt Wednesday to pass the bill, too.

The bill would immediately cut the state’s pension liabilities by $3.4 billion, and address challenges that face our pension plans like longer life expectancy. Unfunded pension liabilities hurt bond ratings, which cost the state, local governments and school districts more money, Dayton said in his letter to Daudt.

The bill requires shared sacrifice from everyone, including the state, employer, employee and retiree, to make the pension system strong for decades to come.

 “Setting our pension plans on a course to continued stability will be viewed favorably by rating agencies, improve our state's finances, and keep our promises to hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees, who are depending on us to solve this problem,” the Governor said.

On Monday, Dayton wrote to both Daudt and Senate Majority Paul Gazelka, asking them to work with him now to get several pieces of legislation moving rather than waiting until the last minute, which has happened in recent years.

Dayton pointed out several issues they’re all committed to resolving where compromise is possible, including preventing elder abuse, ensuring the safety of school children and addressing the opioid crisis.

“On these important matters, there’s no excuse for delay,” Dayton wrote. “I see no reason why these bills cannot be signed into law by the end of this month.”

Dayton also warned lawmakers against cutting agency budgets or relying on accounting gimmicks.

“I refuse to let our next Governor and Legislature walk into the same fiscal mess I inherited,” said Dayton, referring to the $6.2 billion deficit left by the Pawlenty administration. “Since taking office, my Administration has worked hard to return fiscal stability to the State of Minnesota. We have turned a decade of deficits into repeated surpluses and replenished our budget reserves to record levels to help protect Minnesota from future economic downturns … I will not support any spending or tax proposals, which would threaten that stability.”

“Efforts to ram controversial policy issues down my throat in budget bills, at the peril of vitally important appropriations, will not gain my signature,” Dayton added. Instead, he urged legislators on both sides of the aisle to work together in conference committees, which are transparent, open to the public and allow public debate.