Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed most of a $46 billion budget but vetoed funding specifically for the state Legislature, an move that top Republicans said they would likely challenge in court as unconstitutional.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed most of a $46 billion budget but vetoed funding specifically for the state Legislature, an move that top Republicans said they would likely challenge in court as unconstitutional.

By signing much of the budget — including funding for state agencies, extra money to expand public preschool options and keep state parks open —  but zeroing out funding for the Legislature itself, Dayton made clear he hoped to spare the pain of a government shutdown while forcing Republican legislative leaders back to the Capitol on his terms.

Among them, the Democratic governor said he would only agree to a special session to restore House and Senate funding if lawmakers also reworked a $650 million tax bill to remove costly tax breaks for estates and several tobacco products, and reduce the scope of a cut to business property taxes.

"If they want me to sign a bill that provides their funding for the next four years, they have to pass a bill that I can accept and agree to sign," Dayton said Tuesday evening. "I refuse to allow the state's financial security to be jeopardized by excessive tax giveaways, which do not benefit most Minnesotans."

He also said lawmakers must remove a provision in a now-signed budget bill that would explicitly ban his administration from expanding driver's license access to immigrants living in the state illegally and should retool changes to how teachers are licensed. It comes after intense pushback from immigrants' rights organizations and the state's massive teacher's union, which had called on Dayton to veto both budget bills with those measures.

But Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Paul Gazelka said they believed Dayton's action was clearly an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers and gave little thought to returning to the negotiating table. They said they'd pursue possible of filing a lawsuit in the coming days.

"I think this action by the governor really is just one last-ditch effort to try to get his way," Daudt said. "I would expect legal action forthcoming."

The bad blood between Minnesota's top leaders comes just days after the Legislature finalized a $46 billion budget in a special session early Friday, overtime required after lawmakers missed the constitutionally mandated deadline to wrap up by midnight May 22. The broad terms of their agreement to enter a special session that began immediately as the regular session ended called for a $650 million tax bill, $50 million to expand preschool offerings and put $300 million toward road and bridge repairs.

It was just a few lines in thousands of pages of budgets that drew Dayton's ire. A small measure in the Legislature's budget that made funding for the state's Department of Revenue contingent upon his approval of the tax bill. The governor called it a "sneak attack" that forced his hand.

Daudt said it was "an insurance policy" to ensure those tax breaks became law, saying the language was in several offers Republicans made to Dayton's administration in the session's homestretch. Those offers were never made public.
If the dispute over legislative funding heads to the courts, they won't have much time to work it out. State money to the House and Senate would dry up July 1, and both Daudt and Gazelka said they could only continue operating on reserves for a month or two.

There were also questions about Dayton's handling of the tax bill. After suggesting he would let it become law without a signature, the governor signed it late Tuesday night amid questions that not doing so would result in a pocket veto.