DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has picked the evening of Feb. 6 to deliver his third State of the State message.
Dayton sent letters today to Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and Minnesota Senate President Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, requesting a joint session of the Legislature for 7:00 p.m., on that date. This year, he'll be addressing a DFL-controled House and Senate after two years of GOP majorities.
Governors have traditionally scheduled their annual State of the State speeches during the middle of the day. But Dayton went with a evening speech last year. He's required to present his budget proposal by Jan. 22.
Minnesotans should expect a budget that includes spending cuts, new revenues and plans, at least, for better funding for early childhood programs and higher education.
That was the word this afternoon from House Speaker Paul Thissen, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and other DFL leaders as they laid out legislative priorities for the new session.
Details were scarce, but here are some of the basics from the press conference.
At the same time, the challenges are immense. There's a $1.1 billion projected deficit that needs to be erased. Factor in other obligations -- including paying schools money that was held back from them to balance prior budgets -- and it creates a budget problem approaching $4 billion, Bakk said.
"We are not going to pass a budget that relies on continued borrowing" or "accounting gimmicks" he added. "We're going to pass a budget with new revenue in it and it's going to have spending reductions in it."
Thissen said lawmakers would seek to take the "squeeze off property taxes," which rose for many Minnesotans as a result of deals to close the budget gap in 2011.
There's interest in spending more on education, particularly early childhood and higher education. Thissen also said lawmakers want to want to find ways to make the state's tax code more competitive.
Bakk said he sent a letter to University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler asking for a report by mid-March on how U expenses compare to other Big 10 schools.. And he indicated the U's success at the Legislature will be tied in part on how the university responds to the administrative spending questions.0 Comments)
WASHINGTON - Minnesota Republicans are looking for a candidate to take on U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014.
They can count out former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, who was narrowly defeated by Franken in 2008. In the past, Coleman has kept open the possibility of staging a rematch against Franken.
Coleman first ruled out a bid in an interview with the National Journal.
In a follow-up interview with MPR News, Coleman did leave open the possibility of challenging Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014.
"I would certainly love to be focused more in Minnesota but I haven't made any decision about my political future other than making it very clear I'm not going to be running for Senate in 2014," said Coleman.
Coleman talked up the prospects of U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and John Kline as potential Republican challengers to Franken.
"If Paulsen were to say he was going to run for United States Senate, that race would be competitive in the blink of an eye," said Coleman. "If Congressman Kline said he was going to run for Senate in 2014, I have no doubt that race would be listed as a competitive race."
Paulsen has sent mixed signals about his interest in running for Senate, telling some interviewers he's not ruling out a bid, while expressing a more definitive "no" in an interview with MPR News last week.
Kline has not ruled out a Senate bid and is "keeping all options on the table for 2014," according to a spokesman. That said, Kline has accumulated significant seniority within the U.S. House and has a comfortable perch as chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
Since leaving the Senate, Coleman has become a lobbyist in Washington with the international law firm Hogan Lovells. More importantly for prospective candidates such as Paulsen and Kline, Coleman also chairs several important outside spending groups, the American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund. In last year's elections, the two groups spent more than $20 million to help Republican candidates nationwide.
Coleman criticized his successor, saying that Franken had been an "invisible" presence in Minnesota in contrast with the state's senior Senator, Amy Klobuchar.(2 Comments)
Former state Rep. Keith Downey of Edina says he's running to be the chair of the Minnesota Republican Party. Downey sent an e-mail to Republican delegates this morning announcing his plans:
"At its core, the State Republican Party's job is to provide leadership to advance Minnesota for the future. But to do that, we need a turnaround. We need to redesign our State Party's operations. We need to grow our fundraising and fix our finances. We need to communicate our principles with clear solutions that engage all Minnesotans. And we need to win."Downey was first elected to the Minnesota House in 2008. He lost his bid for the Minnesota Senate in November to DFLer Melisa Franzen. Downey also served as co-chair of Kurt Bills' unsuccessful U.S. Senate campaign in 2012.
Current Party Chair Pat Shortridge is not running for re-election. The person who replaces him will have a tough job ahead. The party is more than $1 million in debt and has been reeling after the November election. Democrats currently control every statewide office, the Minnesota Legislature and five of the Minnesota's eight congressional seats.
Downey is the second candidate to announce a run for party chair. Republican Party Senate District 34 Party Chair Marjorie Holsten says she's also seeking the post.
Shortridge's term ends in April.
Here's Downey's full e-mail:
Today I am announcing to GOP delegates and alternates statewide my intention to run for State Republican Party Chair. We have a lot of work to do, and it would be an honor to serve as your State Party Chairman!
It is a critical time. We must do all this not for our own sake, but for the good of the people of Minnesota and our country. These times demand an excellent Republican Party, and together we can get the job done!
A heartfelt thank you to our current Chairman Pat Shortridge for all he has done, and to his team. We now need to take the next steps, and they are big ones.
As a businessman and recent State Representative, I hope to earn your confidence with the right combination of principle, skill and experience, and a concrete plan for the gains we need to make. Look for more information from me soon.
Thank you for your service to the people of Minnesota, and a Happy New Year to you and yours!
The first batch of bills from Minnesota Senate Democrats include a health insurance exchange, statewide all-day kindergarten and a minimum wage increase.
There are also bills to make it harder to put constitutional amendments on the ballot and to apply the state sales tax to some clothing. Texts of the bills were posted online today, one day before Thursday's official start of bill introductions. DFL Senate leaders have a news conference scheduled Thursday morning to detail the bills, along with the specific bill authors.
Senate File 1 establishes the Minnesota Insurance Marketplace Act, which is allowed under the federal health care law as way to let consumers shop for policies.
Senate File 2 authorizes funding for voluntary full-day kindergarten.
Senate File 3 increases the minimum wage requirements for large employers to $7.50 an hour, and provides for automatic inflationary increases in the future.
Senate File 4 would require a 3/5 majority vote in both chambers of the Legislature to place constitutional amendment questions on the statewide ballot.
As expected, DFLers are also proposing several ways to increase tax revenue. There's a bill (SF 8) to collect some of the sales taxes currently lost to Internet purchases.
Another bill (SF 9) would expand the sales tax to clothing items above $200.
Yet another bill (SF 10) would eliminate the current tax exemption for companies that operate in foreign countries.