DFL legislative leaders say plans to raise the gas tax for road projects and a metrowide sales tax for transit projects are dead for the year.
"I would say they're probably both dead," said DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.
Senate leaders have been pushing to increase the gas tax to pay for additional road and bridge projects. But historically high gas prices and opposition from Governor Dayton has proved too big of an obstacle.
DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen suggested there was discomfort in raising gas and sales taxes at a time when they're also raising other taxes to balance the budget and spend more on schools.
"There's no question that we have transportation infrastructure problems that we need to take on," Thissen said. "We're going to be doing huge education investments this year that are going to make a huge difference, property tax relief, investments in jobs and a number of other issues. There's only so many things that you can do in a single session."
Transportation advocates say a higher gas tax and a sales tax for transit are needed to help the state keep pace with its transportation needs.
Gov. Dayton says he wants to create a statewide conversation over the next year to discuss the transportation needs of the state.
The Minnesota House has passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would let voters decide whether an outside group should determine pay for legislators.
The bill would put the measure on the 2016 ballot. Supporters, like chief author Rep. Jason Metsa, DFL-Virginia, say the measure would remove legislators' ability to set their own salaries.
"This is about transparency for our constituents and turning over the authority that stops us from doing the good business of this state and letting our constituents handle that part," Metsa said. "We don't need to fight about it, argue about it or worry about it anymore. And in future legislatures, we'll be able to discuss the important business of this state."
Republicans said it was ridiculous for the House to consider a measure that would determine pay hikes for legislators when their budget work isn't complete. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he couldn't believe Democrats passed the amendment before completing work on the budget.
Daudt said he was surprised that Democrats passed a constitutional amendment after complaining for two years that Republicans approved amendments to ban same-sex marriage and require a photo ID to vote for the 2012 ballot.
"I wish I could roll back time and listen to you guys," Daudt said. "No constitutional amendments. No divisive social issues. Where's the budget? That's what you said. What are you doing?"
The Senate has yet to take up the measure.
Four Democrats, Ann Lenczewski, Gene Pelowski, Joe Radinovich and Paul Rosenthal, voted against the measure.
Here's the roll call:
Democrats in the Minnesota House today could not attract enough Republican support to pass a public works bonding bill. The House fell five votes short of passing the $800 million bill.
Democrats have argued that the bill would help put people to work by funding needed construction projects around the state, including the renovation of the Capitol building. Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said it's unlikely that she'll push for another vote on the measure this year.
"What would be the point of taking it up again tomorrow?," Hausman said. "We've been trying for months to solidify the votes and so overnight nothing is going to change. It's inconceivable to me how people could make this kind of judgment."
Hausman said she thinks funding for the Capitol renovation will be stalled if a bonding bill doesn't pass this year. Republicans objected to the overall price-tag, the timing of the vote, and that the bill includes funding for projects that should be in other budget bills.
Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, voted against the bill even though it includes money for recovery from last winter's ice storm damage in southwestern Minnesota.
Hamilton said southwestern Minnesota lawmakers were being held hostage to vote for the bill.
"That is absolutely disgusting," Hamilton said. "We had the governor come down there and meet with the people in our area. He promised them, he promised us, that we would have assistance to help them out."
Lawmakers have until midnight Monday to finish their work.
Here's the Roll Call
(MPR Video/Tom Scheck)
(MPR Video/Tom Scheck)
(MPR VIdeo/Tom Scheck)
Governor Dayton and DFL legislative leaders have announced a deal on an overall tax bill that would increase roughly $2 billion in new taxes.
The plan would create a new fourth tier income tax rate of 9.85 percent on couples with an after-tax income of $250,000 a year. The nonpartisan Tax Foundation says Minnesota would have the fourth highest income tax rate in the nation under the new proposal.
The plan would also increase cigarette taxes by $1.60 a pack and increase some corporate taxes. The plan scraps proposals to raise alcohol taxes and an income tax surcharge on couples earning more than $500 thousand a year. DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen says House Democrats dropped their push for the income tax surcharge to pay back an $800 million K12 school payment delay.
"It became clear that some of the discomfort of the additional tax needed for the surchage to fully pay back our schools was growing," Thissen said. "That will no longer be part of this tax proposal."
Current law says any surplus money should from future budget forecasts will pay back the school shift first.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says the agreement paves the way for the Legislature to pass a budget before Monday's constitutional deadline to adjourn.
"This is the lynch pin of the session," Bakk said. "Now everything will fall in under the tax bill. We are well on our way and I would argue ahead of schedule to accomplish the completion of the tax bill on Thursday."
DFL legislative leaders say the tax hikes are needed to erase a $627 million budget deficit and spend more on education, property tax relief and other state programs.
Republicans were quick to criticize the tax deal as unnecessary.
"We've got a $600 million problem," said GOP Senate Minority Leader David Hann. "We don't need to raise $2 billion in revenue to solve a $600 million problem."
Lawmakers are also wrapping up other budget bills. A joint House/Senate conference committee on Higher Education has finished its work. DFL leaders also say a conference committee on Health and Human Services is close to finishing as well.(1 Comments)
A proposed increase in the state's minimum is looking less certain this session.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the issue was discussed this morning during a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton and House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. Bakk said they did not reach and agreement, and he thinks the chances are now "unlikely."
"The House is very dug in on a $9.00 rate, and the votes are just not there in the Senate to go that high," Bakk said.
The Senate passed legislation last week to increase the state's minimum wage to $7.75 an hour by 2015. The House passed a bill a week earlier to set the rate at $9.50 an hour by 2015, with automatic future increases based on inflation. Gov. Dayton has said he would support a new rate in the $9.00 to $9.50 range.
So far, the issue has been part of the global budget negotiations rather than in conference committee.
Bakk said he thinks lawmakers will have to work during the interim on the minimum wage issue, and bring back a compromise in the 2014 session.
Thissen said he believe the House bill is the right position to serve working people of the state.
"We think very strongly that we need to get a good minimum wage that people can really live on," Thissen said.
Thissen said he remains hopeful that an agreement on the minimum wage increase can be reached in conference committee, but he added that it might not come until next year.
The two declared Republican candidates for governor say they will not push to repeal the new law that allows same-sex couples to marry in Minnesota.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and Orono businessman Scott Honour say they'll focus on bread and butter fiscal issues if they defeat DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014.
"I think Minnesotans are ready to talk about something other than gay marriage for a change," Johnson wrote in an e-mail. "I would not push to repeal the new law, although if something landed on my desk supporting traditional marriage I would sign it."
Johnson told reporters after he announced his campaign for governor that he supports marriage defined as between one man and one woman. He added that he didn't think Republicans who voted for the law to legalize same-sex marriage should be punished for their vote.
Honour said when he announced that he did not support same-sex marriage but could support civil unions. Now that the same-sex marriage bill has been signed into law, Honour's senior adviser says Honour isn't focusing on it.
"The Minnesota Senate will have a pro-gay marriage majority until at least 2017, so a repeal bill would go absolutely nowhere," wrote Pat Shortridge, senior adviser to Honour. "Political symbolism will not be a prominent feature of Scott's time as governor. Results will."
Both Shortridge and Johnson said the focus of the campaigns will be on taxes and spending and making changes to the state's education system.
Honour and Johnson are the only two major Republicans who have officially announced their campaigns for governor.
Several members of the Legislature, including Sen. Dave Thompson, Sen. Julie Rosen, Sen. David Hann and Rep. Kurt Zellers, are considering a run. All of them voted against the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage.
John Helmberger, CEO of the Minnesota Family Council, told MPR News last week that his organization would focus on backing candidates that will repeal the law.(5 Comments)
Minnesotans United, which successfully lobbied to pass the bill that legalizes same-sex marriage, has formed a political action committee. The PAC will work to support and re-elect legislators who voted for the marriage bill.
"Minnesotans United recognizes that casting a yes vote in favor of allowing same-sex couples to marry was a decision that many legislators struggled with," said Richard Carlbom, MN United Campaign Manager, in a statement. "But their leadership and choice to stand on the side of families and freedom in Minnesota should be commended."
The formation of the PAC isn't a surprise, since Carlbom and other same-sex marriage supporters repeatedly encouraged the thousands who attended the House and Senate floor votes and the governor's signing ceremony to support lawmakers who backed the bill.
Several rural Democrats and suburban Republicans who voted for the bill say there is a possibility that their votes could cost them their jobs.
Minnesota for Marriage, which worked to defeat the bill, intends to campaign against the rural Democrats and five Republicans who backed the bill.
From MPR's Elizabeth Dunbar....
The Minnesota House and Senate have agreed to an energy bill that includes a 1.5 percent solar energy standard for investor-owned utilities.
The House version of the bill had required investor-owned utilities to provide at least 4 percent of their power through solar generation by late 2025. The Senate had approved a bill that included a 1 percent solar standard.
The conference committee working out differences between the two bills decided on a 1.5 percent solar energy standard that will take effect sooner. Investor-owned utilities, such as Xcel Energy, must meet the standard by the end of 2020. Iron mining facilities and paper mills are exempt, as are electricity co-ops and municipal utilities.
The compromise goes back to the House and Senate for final votes before the Legislature adjourns next week.
Republicans say the requirement will be costly for residents and businesses, but DFL legislators who authored the bill say many people face rate hikes because utilities are relying too heavily on fossil fuels and nuclear power.
You can read the conference committee report here.
The Minnesota Senate passed the measure today by a vote of 37-30, after more than four hours of debate. Only one Republican joined Democrats on the prevailing side, and three DFLers opposed the bill.
Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, the bill's chief author, said the relatively simple change will have a big impact on many peoples lives.
"With just a few words, we have the ability to bring loving families across the entire state of Minnesota into the full sunshine of freedom and equality that they've been denied for so long," Dibble said. "And in so doing, help them become stronger affirm the values we all share and strengthen our democracy."
The bill includes specific exemptions for churches and other faith organizations that object to gay marriage on religious grounds. Additional language was added in the House to protect religious freedom. But Senate opponents tried unsuccessfully to add even more. Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said individuals should also have their objections to same-sex marriage protected.
"Isn't there room in our state, isn't there room in our statutes for proposals like this, where we recognize the rights of people who have deeply held sincere beliefs, and allow them to say, 'I'm sorry I can't do that?,'" Limmer asked.
But Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park argued that the proposed amendment would actually gut the state's existing human rights act and lead to more discrimination.
"Do we really want to go there, members? Haven't we been there before 40 years ago. Aren't we past that as a society?"
Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, is among those who object to gay marriage on religious grounds. Hall said while some celebrate the vote, others are grieving. He predicted the passage of the bill will bring civil disobedience.
"This document will split our schools, our churches our towns. our counties our state. It will hurt businesses and confuse children, more than any single issue has ever done since the Civil War."
Minnesota will become the 12th state to legalize same-sex marriage. After the governor signs the bill same sex couples will be able to marry as of August 1. The state will also recognize the unions of same sex people who were married in other states and countries. Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, who has sponsored previous gay marriage bills, said it's time for same-sex couples to be treated the same as other couples.
"These families, whether some have been able to acknowledge it or not, there families pay taxes," Marty said. "They participate in their community. They go to church. They're active in the PTA. These families same rights and recognition that we do."
The House passed the bill last week on a 75-59 vote, with the help of four Republicans. Two House Democrats voted against the bill.
In the Senate three DFLers voted no. They were Senators Lyle Koenen of Clara City, Dan Sparks of Austin and Leroy Stumpf of Plummer. Only one Republican supported the measure. Republican Senator Branden Petersen of Andover was a co-sponsor of the bill. Petersen said he felt uncertain about his political future but not about his vote.
"I've sliced every issue as it relates to this vote up and down and side to side," Petersen said. "And I truly couldn't come back to this chamber as an honest legislator and cast a no vote on this bill. I couldn't wake up in the morning, look myself in the mirror and say that I am honestly doing the work that I need to do, that I'm honestly doing what in my heart and in my mind is the right thing to do."
Gov. Dayton is ready to act quickly on the bill once it arrives. A signing ceremony is planned for the south steps of the State Capitol on Tuesday evening.(0 Comments)
Rep. Paul Thissen, House DFL Leader, Sen. Tom Bakk, Senate DFL Leader, and Gov. Mark Dayton in a file photo. The DFL leaders announced Sunday, May 12 a budget deal for the state of Minnesota. (Alex Kolyer for MPR, file)
Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL legislative leaders have agreed on a tax and spending framework that raises income taxes on top earners, expands the sales tax to some yet to be determined "non-consumer services," raises the cigarette tax and pays back the money owed to schools from earlier budget deals through a temporary income tax surcharge.
It also erases a $627 million budget deficit, boosts funding for public education by $725 million and provides $400 million in property tax relief.
Heading into the final week of the 2013 session, Dayton appeared at a Sunday news conference with House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, to announce the deal. Much of the attention was on the tax revenue target of just over $2 billion.
The income tax increase thresholds are $250,000 taxable income for couples and $150,00 taxable income for individuals. Dayton said the rate for that new fourth tier still has to be determined. He stressed that they are not raising taxes on the middle class, with the exception of the cigarette tax.
"We're specifically focused on the very wealthiest top 2 percent," Dayton said. "The sales tax details are to be negotiated, but it's focused on business activity, not on consumers. There won't be a sales tax on clothing. There won't be a sales tax on consumer services."
The House tax bill included a 4 percent surcharge on people with incomes above $500,000 to pay back schools. But Sen. Bakk said the final version won't be that high.
"We don't know exactly what that the number is, but it's going to be a much smaller percentage than what you've heard," Bakk said. "The reason is, we're going to take the fund balance on June 30 in this current biennium that we're in and apply that to the school shift before we consider imposing any kind of a surcharge."
On the spending side, Speaker Thissen said it will be up to the conference committees to sort out the final details.
"The good news is though we share the same priorities in terms of spending in most of these budget areas," Thissen said.
Republicans were quick to criticize the budget framework. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown described it as disappointing news from the DFL on Mothers's Day.
"Their gift for every hardworking mother in the state of Minnesota is going to be a more than $2 billion tax increase," Daudt said. We were hoping to hear that some of these plans were going to be reeled back and scaled back. Unfortunately, everything we feared is still on the table."
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said the DFL plan is simply more "overtaxing, overspending and overreaching."
Both Hann and Daudt said they are not interested in the DFL plan for an $800 million bonding bill this session. GOP votes are needed in both chambers to reach the supermajority needed to pass bonding bills.
The legislative session ends May 20.
Here are the targets:
E-12 Education: $475 million Higher Education: $250 million(8 Comments)
Tax Bill Revenues: $2.05 billion
Tax Aids and Credits: $400 million
Net Tax Bill Revenues: $1.65 billion
Health and Human Services: ($50 million)
Environment and Agriculture: $23 million
Public Safety and Judiciary: $102.76 million
Jobs/Commerce/Housing: $89 million
State Government: $28.8 million
Capital Investment: $64 million (debt service assuming an $800 million bonding bill)
Education Shift Reduction: $860 million (repayment amount contingent on FY13 balance and future forecast improvements)
There is support growing for a proposed change to the bill that would legalize same-sex marriage that could help attract Republican support for the bill.
Rep. David Fitzsimmons,R-Albertville, wants to insert the words "civil marriage" in all instances where marriage is mentioned in state laws. It would apply to both same-sex and heterosexual couples.
Fitzsimmons says he's proposing the amendment to protect religious institutions that are opposed to same sex marriage.
"What this does with placing civil in front of marriage is that it only highlights again that this is not talking about is necessarily the marriage that's takes place in your church or synagogue," Fitzsimmons said. "This bill is about the civil aspects and the government relations aspects of marriage."
Fitzsimmons declined to say whether he would vote for the bill if his amendment is adopted.
Sen. Branden Peterson, R-Andover, also worked behind the scenes to craft the amendment. Petersen, who is the only Republican to publicly say he'll vote for the bill, says he expects as many as six Republicans to support the same-sex marriage bill if the amendment is adopted.
DFL House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and the bill's co-author say they back the amendment. The House has scheduled a vote on the bill tomorrow.(2 Comments)
A spokesman for the House DFL caucus says Thursday is the day the House will vote on a bill that legalizes same-sex marriage in Minnesota. The House Rules Committee will vote today to put the bill on Thursday's House Calendar.
The move is a signal that there is enough support to pass the bill, because DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen and House Majority Leader Erin Murphy have repeatedly said that they will not bring the bill up for a vote unless it can pass.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk has said there are enough yes votes in the Senate to pass the bill. Gov. Dayton has said he would sign it if the bill reaches his desk.
Groups on both sides of the issue have been lobbying rural DFLers and suburban Republicans in the past few weeks. Several rural Democrats have said in the past few days that they have decided to vote for the bill.
Minnesotans United, a group lobbying for the bill's passage, will hold an interfaith vigil on Wednesday night to show support for same-sex marriage.
"We are confident that we have the votes to pass it," said House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul.
She said DFL members, particularly in rural areas, have been talking with people in their districts and supporters of the bill.
"They have searched their conscience...and they are prepared to take the question up," she said. "I hope this is a bipartisan issue but at this point I don't have any clear commitment from Republicans."
First-term Rep. Shannon Savick, DFL Wells, said she's voting for the bill.
She said her brother is gay, and she didn't think twice about the vote.
"To me, it's standing on principles," she said. "I watched my brother being discriminated against when I was younger. I just can't see why he can't marry the person that he loves. I did."
"It could cost me the election because I come from a really conservative area, but I'm hoping I do enough good in other areas that they will overlook that," Savick said.(5 Comments)
A Democrat who was on the fence as to whether to support a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota says he will vote for the bill.
Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby, said today that if the bill comes up he's on board.
"To further deny equal rights to all people would be a black eye on this institution and certainly on my own career," he said.
Supporters and opponents of a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage have been lobbying Radinovich and several other rural Democrats on the bill. Sixty-two percent of the voters in Radinovich's Aitkin and Crow Wing County district supported the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Radinovich acknowledged that his stance on the bill would upset some of his constituents, including some of his family members. But he said he believes that a majority of younger voters support same-sex marriage, and that the trend is that same-sex marriage will be legal soon.
"I'd rather have the voters be upset with me right now than me to be upset with myself for the rest of my life," Radinovich said.
House and Senate DFL leaders are staying mum about whether they'll bring the bill up for a vote. DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen said that some House Democrats are still undecided on the issue. He said he doesn't have a timeline as to when the House might vote on the bill.
"My plan would be that if we're going to bring it up that we are going to be very comfortable that we have the votes to pass it," Thissen said.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk told the AP that he still intends to wait for the House to vote first but wouldn't rule out that the Senate could vote on the bill first.
Lawmakers have until May 20 to finish their work.(4 Comments)
State lawmakers introduced legislation today to legalize the use of medical marijuana, but they aren't looking for any action on the measure until next year.
Similar bills have been tried before, but ran into strong opposition from law enforcement officials. Then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed a measure in 2009. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he too will side with law enforcement in opposition to legalizing medical marijuana.
Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said her bill would create one of the most restrictive laws in the country. Melin said people with serious illnesses would need a doctor's recommendation and a special state identification card to legally obtain small quantities medical marijuana from government-regulated dispensaries.
"This legislation strikes the appropriate balance between compassion, health and safety," Melin said. "It protects and provides relief to some of our state's most vulnerable citizens and it does in a manner that is well regulated and well controlled."
Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, is a co-author of the bill. He said medical marijuana is not a partisan issue.
"I think we've got support in the Legislature to pass it," Hackbarth said. "We're introducing it now so we can gain support talk to legislators and then really hit it hard, hit the the ground running when session starts next year."
The chief author of the Senate bill is Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis.
A group called Minnesotans for Compassionate Care is leading the push to legalize medical marijuana. Similar laws are in place in 18 states and the District of Columbia.
Legislation calling for more gun background checks in Minnesota appears to be off the table for the year.
DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen says he's shelving the bill after Democrats could not reach agreement on the best plan to prevent gun violence.
Several Democrats, mostly in the metropolitan area, were pushing for increased background checks for gun purchases but that legislation faced opposition from gun rights groups and rural Democrats.
Thissen says he decided to shelve the bill because neither side was willing to budge.
"Both sides of the issue are still not willing to come to a reasonable middle ground so I don't think there's a bill that can pass the Minnesota House of Representatives this year.," Thissen said.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says the Senate won't vote on a bill now that the House has decided not to act. He says the NRA and other gun rights groups were effective in their lobbying efforts.
"Public opinion would seem to support doing something on background checks," Bakk said. "But I think when you measure the e-mail that many members receive, that public opinion didn't weigh out in what their constituent contacts were. It was quite the contrary."
Bakk says it's possible that the Legislature could take up the issue again next year when lawmakers aren't as focused on passing a two-year budget.(8 Comments)
Gov. Dayton has started lobbying the Legislature to pass a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage. Dayton sent out an e-mail to his campaign backers earlier this week encouraging them to contact their legislators and ask them to vote for the law.
"If we're going to get this historic legislation passed, we need our voices to ring even louder," Dayton wrote in the e-mail. "Urge lawmakers in St. Paul to follow their consciences and pass the freedom to marry."
Dayton also spoke privately to the House DFL caucus this morning and encouraged members to support the bill. He said he understands that it could be a difficult vote for some rural Democrats.
"I realize this is a difficult decision for many of them, especially in areas where their constituents supported the constitutional amendment," Dayton told reporters after the meeting. "But I went back to John Kennedy's 'Profiles In Courage" and said other people had to make a historic and momentous decisions, and they had to search their conscience for the right thing to do."
Supporters and opponents of the bill have been lobbying furiously behind the scenes. DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen said today no vote has been scheduled on the bill. DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he thinks the votes are there to pass it in the Senate but said the Senate won't take it up until the House votes on it.
Gov. Mark Dayton has opened the door to supporting an increase in the alcohol tax.
House Democrats passed a tax bill last week that includes an alcohol excise tax increase that amounts to seven cents a drink. Earlier in the legislative session Dayton said he was against increasing the tax. Today Dayton said that he's not endorsing the plan, but he said he might be willing to sign a tax bill that included it.
"Compromise is something you agree to not agree with," Dayton said. "It's one of those things that I probably would accede to their position if there are other parts that I get in return."
Senate Democrats have not embraced a higher tax on alcohol. Opponents of the bill worry the measure would harm the hospitality industry in Minnesota.
Dayton, House Democrats and Senate Democrats have all proposed income tax hikes on top earners, increasing cigarette taxes and raising taxes on corporations that operate overseas.
Dayton met privately this morning with DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. Bakk and Dayton both said that they think Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson needs to sit down with Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, and Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, to resolve their differences on health and human services spending.
Bakk said they need to iron out those details because Dayton is proposing to spend roughly $300 million more than House and Senate Democrats on health and human services.
"That's such a big number that it's hard to get an overall revenue target until you resolve it," Bakk said. "Smaller bills that are $5 or $10 million are one thing, but when you have a big gap like that, that has a big impact on the tax target so we're trying to get our arms around that."
Bakk also said he didn't think Dayton and DFL leaders needed to reach agreement on an overall budget deal until May 17 - just three days before the constitutional deadline to adjourn. Speaker Thissen disagreed with that timeline.
"I don't think there's any reason to wait," Thissen told reporters.
Thissen also said there isn't a timeline as to when the House will vote on an amendment to legalize same-sex marriage. He also said he wasn't sure if the House would hold a vote on a bill that requires a background check for some gun purchases.
The House is scheduled to vote Friday on a bill that would increase the minimum wage to $9.50 and hour for large employers by 2015.
Gov. Mark Dayton announced today the seven-member board that will manage Minnesota's new health insurance exchange, which state lawmakers created earlier this session under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Dayton appointed six people to join
Health and Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson on the MNsure board. They include the owner of a health care technology company, a former health care software company owner, a retired physician, a tribal executive, a former union leader and a corporate communications executive. The members bring diverse experiences to the new board, Dayton said during a news conference.
"We need a board with great wisdom and perspective and ready to face the challenges," Dayton said. "There certainly are going to be plenty of challenges ahead. But I'm very confident with this board that we're going to have the best health exchange anywhere in the country."
The new health insurance exchange, which will help individuals and small businesses in Minnesota find coverage online, is scheduled to be operational by Oct. 1.
Brian Beutner, a consultant and former UnitedHealth Group executive, said he and the other board members are committed to getting the exchange right.
"We're ahead of most other states in what we're doing, and there will be hiccups along the way," Beutner said. "Everybody has their own internal ideal of what it can be. I think our charge is to make it work for as many people as well as possible."
The other appointees are: Thompson Aderinkomi, founder and CEO of Retrace Health; Pete Benner, a consultant and former AFSCME executive; Kathryn Duevel, a retired OBGYN physician; Tom Forsythe, vice president of global communications at General Mills; and Phil Norrgard, director of human services Fond du Lac Reservation.
The board will begin meeting next month.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is complaining about the crowd at his latest town hall meeting.
Dayton said today that the behavior of some of the people who attended the event Monday night at Shakopee High School was "juvenile" and "rude."
It was the seventh in a series of meetings that the governor has held around the state to discuss his budget proposal. There were pointed questions and long comments about taxes and spending, but Dayton said he thought several audience members went too far with their interruptions.
"I welcome the disagreements, and I welcome the controversy, and I welcome people who are genuinely upset expressing their upset," Dayton said. "But not something that is just contrived for the purpose of trying to distract me or distract the conversation."
Dayton said has enjoyed some great discussions, as well as some significant disagreements in his previous town hall meetings. He said the Shakopee audience was the rudest so far.
There were a few hiccups along the way but the Minnesota Senate voted for a tax bill that raises income taxes on top earners, increases tobacco taxes and expands the sales tax to clothing and other services.
The bill's final passage came after the Senate initially defeated the measure. Senate Democrats quickly met in private and then voted to reconsider the initial vote.
Two Democrats switched their votes. Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL- Apple Valley, says he switched his vote from no to yes because he was worried the Senate would not be able to commit to spending priorities if the tax bill failed.
"For me, what it came down to quite honestly is that we made a lot of gains in education," Clausen said. "I ran on an education platform and I wasn't willing to put those education investments at risk by not having this tax bill."
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says several DFL members were confused when a few Republicans signaled they would support the bill but eventually switched to a no vote.
"There were people that voted no because they thought there were plenty of votes up to pass it," Bakk said. "I think people didn't realize that people were going to play a little trick when the roll was closed and switch their vote back. I think there would have easily been the same number of votes had the Republicans had been honest and put up their red vote when the roll was called."
Bakk said he didn't twist arms to convince Clausen or Sen. John Hoffman, DFL-Champlin, to switch their votes. Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, also voted for the bill after not voting the first time.
Senate Republicans weren't buying Bakk's explanation. They said the first vote was a sign the bill didn't have strong support.
"The first vote was a vote where the DFL members voted their conscience, they voted their district, they voted the merits of the bill and it failed," said GOP Senate Majority Leader David Hann. "It shows that this bill does not have the support of the DFL caucus."
The tax bill now has to be reconciled with a different House bill and Gov. Dayton's tax proposal.(3 Comments)
From MPR's Rupa Shenoy....
Grover Norquist was the headline speaker today at the annual Taxpayers Rally at the State Capitol.
Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told a crowd of hundreds of people they should support retaining the sequester cuts, which he called "a spending limit with teeth."
Norquist said when politicians vow to increase taxes only on the rich, it's really the beginning of tax increases for all. He said Republican elected officials who vote for tax increases damage the brand for everyone else in the party. Norquist says said states can be good examples for how cutting taxes can work.
"No state is a complete waste," Norquist said. "Some of them serve as bad examples. Let us work here to make sure that that's California and Illinois and not Minnesota."
Norquist's visit comes at a time when Gov. Dayton and DFLers in control of the Legislature are all aiming to raise several billion in taxes to erase the state's budget deficit and spend more money on schools.
Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann also spoke to the crowd, calling it "the face of sanity of Minnesota."
Bachmann said Americans are taxed enough already and government should not spend more than it takes in.
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin issued a statement criticizing Norquist.
"While Grover and his wealthy friends are saying 'no,' Minnesotans are saying 'yes.' A majority of Minnesotans support Gov. Dayton's proposal for the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans - that's 54,000 people - to pay 2 percent more in income taxes so the state can invest in education. Minnesotans understand that top earners are paying less of a percentage of their earnings in income taxes than low- and middle-class Minnesotans, and they think it's time for a fair tax system," Martin said in a statement.
Here's Norquist's speech: Listen(0 Comments)
Scott Honour announced today that he's running for governor as a Republican. Honour's LinkedIn page says he's the chair of a gas transportation company in Minnesota. He also served as an investment banker for UBS Bank in Los Angeles.
Honour announced his run for governor in a video posted on his website. In the three minute video, Honour repeatedly mentions the need to "grow jobs" and says he is worried about "growing government."
"We lack leadership in St. Paul, and that's a failure of Gov. Dayton," Honour said in the video. "We lack vision in St. Paul and that's a failure of both parties. It's time to return real leadership to the governor's office."
An official with Honour's campaign said the candidate will not be doing interviews today to discuss his run.
Honour officially filed the paperwork with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board today. He lists Brian Clark as his campaign chair. Former state Sen. Ted Daley is listed as his campaign treasurer.
Honour is best known in Minnesota politics for hosting a high dollar, private fundraiser for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign in 2012.
Other Republicans who have said they're considering a run for governor include Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, state Sen. Dave Thompson, state Rep. Kurt Zellers and state Sen. David Hann.
Gov. Dayton has said he intends to run for re-election.
Honour's announcement drew a quick response from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, an outside group that works to elect Democrats. The group criticized Honour's background.
"Surprise, surprise the first GOP candidate for MN Governor is a corporate CEO with mega-millions," ABM wrote on its Facebook page. "He lives in a mansion on Lake Minnetonka. Not surprising: He's wrong for Minnesota."
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this blog post incorrectly said Honour lived in Wayzata because that is the address he listed on his campaign paperwork. Hennepin County property records say Honour's home is in Orono.(3 Comments)
Senate Democrats released their tax bill this morning.
It would create a new third tier income tax rate of 9.4 percent on on joint filers with a taxable income $140,960 or more a year. Single filers would pay the new 9.4 percent rate starting at a taxable income of $79,730.
Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, who chairs the Senate Tax Committee, says the funding will help erase the state's budget deficit and commit more money to education.
"When this provision becomes law, we will accomplish the main goal of this session and that's to balance the budget for the next four years," Skoe said.
The plan does not create the four tier income tax rate that is being proposed by House Democrats and Gov. Dayton. Dayton wants to raise income tax rates to 9.85 percent on the top 2 percent of filers. House Democrats are proposing a fourth tier of 8.49 percent on joint filers who have a taxable income of $400,000 or more. They also want to create a temporary 4 percent surcharge on filers who earn $500,000 and more.
Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, criticized the income tax hikes in the plan. She said the plan goes well beyond Gov. Dayton's plan.
"To the extent that there was an effort to tax the rich, I think this is not it. This is a failure," Ortman said. "I think at a $140,000 - these are middle class, hardworking Minnesotans and not representative of the rich."
The Senate tax plan would also increase the tobacco tax by 94 cents a pack. It would expand the state sales tax to consumer services and clothing but lower the overall sales tax rate. The bill also includes state funding to help Rochester deal with a proposed expansion by the Mayo Clinic; it authorizes tax breaks for the Mall of America expansion and tax breaks to help lure a biotech company to expand in Brooklyn Park.
The Senate Tax Committee debated the bill this morning. Skoe said he wants the committee to vote on the bill by Thursday.
The House is scheduled to vote on its tax bill on Wednesday.(1 Comments)
DFL legislative leaders appear to be at odds over raising taxes on alcohol.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said this morning that the Senate tax bill will not increase the liquor tax, while the House DFL plan includes an increase in the excise tax on alcohol.
DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen said House Democrats are proposing the increase because problems related to alcohol cost the state a lot of money.
"Conservative estimates say that about $2 billion in state costs, including DWI related costs, health care costs and a whole variety of other costs, are paid out by the state related to alcohol use," Thissen said at a University of Minnesota Humphrey School event. "And particularly alcohol use by those who use it excessively."
Gov. Dayton did not include an alcohol tax hike in his budget plan but didn't outright oppose the idea when speaking with reporters last week.
Thissen said the alcohol tax will amount to roughly seven cents a beer. But Bakk and others believe the tax will be higher.
Bakk said he doesn't think there's as much support for raising alcohol taxes as there is for a cigarette tax increase.
"Even among smokers I don't think there's a lot of anxiety about raising the tax," Bakk said "I think when you go to alcohol it's a lot of different. Clearly it's 80-85 percent of people and most of them don't want to quit - unlike cigarettes."
Gov. Dayton, House Democrats and Senate Democrats are all proposing an income tax hike on top earners and increasing the tax on cigarettes. Bakk said "the die is cast" on those tax increases becoming law.
Senate Democrats are expected to release their tax bill tomorrow. It's likely to also include expanding the sales tax to some consumer services and lowering the sales tax rate.
Bakk and Thissen stressed the need to raise taxes both to erase the state's projected $627 million revenue gap and to spend more on early childhood education, K-12 schools and higher education. Bakk admitted that some of the tax proposals will be unpopular with the public but said a quality education system is vital to Minnesota's economic climate.
"Some people are probably going to lose some elections because we're going to raise some taxes, and many Minnesotans aren't going to understand why we had to do that but sometimes leading is not a popularity contest," he said.
Bakk also told reporters that the Senate is unlikely to take up a bill legalizing same-sex marriage or a bonding bill unless he has assurances that the House can pass those measures.
It's not clear whether there are the votes in the House to pass the same-sex marriage bill. Democrats are unlikely to take the issue up until after all of the budget bills are passed.(0 Comments)
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, is throwing some cold water on some of the union-backed initiatives at the State Legislature.
Bakk told a forum at the University of Minnesota's s Humphrey School today that it will be difficult to pass legislation that would give a two-year unemployment extension for locked out workers, a minimum wage increase that tops $10 an hour and a measure that allows at-home child care workers to unionize. Bakk, a retired union carpenter, said some union leaders told him over the weekend that they're not happy with him.
"My union card is 37 years old," Bakk said. "There are things you can do and things you can't get done."
Bakk also said the Senate will not take up a bill that would require labor peace agreements between building developers and union groups that deal with buildings funded, in part, by taxpayer dollars. He said local governments, not the state, should decide the matter.
On the minimum wage issue Bakk said he expects an increase will pass into law this session but it will not be as high as the labor backed $10.55 an hour (or even the House plan that increases the minimum wage to $9.85 an hour).
"Something is going to happen on the minimum wage. I just don't know what the number is," he said.
Bakk said it's been a challenge to manage the expectations of labor groups. He said they were disappointed that the House and Senate are proposing to trim $150 million in Health and Human Services spending.
Union leaders have been optimistic that they could pass several initiatives this session. That measure included a nurse-staffing requirement , a minimum wage hike and allowing at-home child care workers and personal care attendants to join a union.
Governor Dayton says he's not inclined to support a proposal to raise a fee on oil wholesalers to pay for road improvements. Senate Democrats want to lower the state's gas tax by about six cents and in turn add a 5-and-a-half percent fee on oil wholesalers. The author of the bill, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, says the change would generate $200 million a year more for roads and bridges. Dayton said the increase would likely be passed down to consumers.
"If it's going to raise more revenues than the current gas tax then it's going to result in higher fuel prices for middle-income Minnesotans," Dayton said. "I think they're not in a position economically to have that."
House and Senate Democrats backed off of their push for a higher gas tax after Dayton indicated he wouldn't support it. The governor said he knows there's a need for more money for transportation projects but thinks he and others have to discuss the issue with the public more.
Democrats in the Minnesota House are reducing the state's overall commitment to a plan to help Mayo Clinic expand in Rochester. In turn, Rochester and Olmsted County are being asked to kick in much more than they have already committed.
Rochester is being asked to raise $128 million in local taxes for the project. The proposal would also allow Olmsted County to authorize new local taxes for a $119 million transit line.
The Mayo plan, which is included in the House Tax bill, lowers the overall state expense to $338 million over the next twenty years. That's roughly $200 million less than Mayo's request. Rep. Kim Norton, R-Rochester, says she's hoping the Mayo Clinic and elected officials in Rochester and Olmsted County will support the proposal.
"Some of it's going to be a challenge but the Tax Chair was really clear that the locals are going to have more skin in the game," Norton said. "It's not free money."
The latest development comes less than a week after Mayo Clinic officials agreed to drop their push to capture a portion of future sales, income, property and corporate taxes. The state funding would help Rochester build roads, bridges, parking lots and other amenities like entertainment centers and parks.
House Taxes Committee Chair Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, said the state would cap annual state payments to Rochester at $30 million. She says the state money will only kick in after the Mayo Clinic spends at least $200 million in Rochester.
"If it's worth having it's worth paying for," Lenczewski said. "We want to have the mechanism that makes everything get paid for. If legislators around the state say, 'It's not worth it to me,' then they're going to vote no and it's not going to pass."
Lenczewski said she is giving Rochester a menu of local taxes to choose from to pay the local costs. They include a tax abatement extension, an extension or increase of the local sales tax, a food and beverage tax, a lodging tax and an entertainment and recreation tax. She says Olmsted County also would have the authority to raise a local option sales tax and a wheelage tax to pay for the proposed transit line.
The measure will be included in the House and Senate Tax plans. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said he'd like to see the Mayo plan move as a standalone bill. Davids, who is a co-author of the bill, said he won't support a proposal that increases income, alcohol and cigarette taxes. Davids also said he was concerned about the impact that higher local taxes would have on Rochester and Olmsted County.
"I don't want to put them in such a position that they are not able to deliver," Davids said. "Hopefully we can work that number back for the city and the county."
The House plan will have to be reconciled with a Senate proposal. Senate Democrats are still working on their plan. A hearing on the bill was canceled last Friday. Senate Tax Chair Rod Skoe says he was still working on parts of the bill and decided to delay the hearing. Skoe says he'll release the Senate's omnibus tax bill next week.
Democrats in the Minnesota House are proposing to raise taxes on Minnesota's wealthiest residents, on cigarettes and on alcohol. House DFL leaders released some of the details of their tax bill today.
It would create a new income tax rate for couples with a taxable income of $400,000 per year or more, and a temporary income tax surcharge on couples earning $500,000 or more per year. The plan would raise cigarette taxes by $1.60 a pack and raises alcohol taxes by roughly 84 cents per 12 pack of beer.
House DFL leaders say the tax hikes are needed to fix the budget over the long-term.
"After a decade of deficits that have largely been balanced on the backs of middle-class Minnesotans, we need a new direction as badly as we need a change in the weather," House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said. "That is what we're offering today."
The plan would also provide property tax relief for homeowners, increase a tax credit for renters, and provide some tax breaks for businesses.
House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the cigarette and alcohol tax increases would offset state costs for damages caused by their use.
"There is overwhelming evidence that tobacco and alcohol consumption cost the state economy billions of dollars every year," Thissen said. "These user tax increases will allow our state to cover some of those costs."
Thissen said the temporary income tax surcharge would end in two years after a shift in the K-12 school payments is paid back. Gov. Dayton has said he opposes a temporary income tax increase and increasing alcohol taxes.
Republicans were quick to criticize the plan.
Republican Representative Greg Davids of Preston was quick to criticize the DFL plan.
"This proposal is a new chapter in DFL reality TV called 'Taxes gone wild" Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said. "That's what we have here. If this is a balanced approach, I would hate to see an unbalanced approach."
Here's a breakdown:
New 4th Tier Income tax rate of 8.49 percent of taxable income above: $400,000 married joint filers $200,000 married filing separate $226,200 single filers $340,700 head of household
A temporary income tax surcharge of 4 percent on couples with a taxable income over $500,000. The money would be used to pay back the K-12 school shift. Democrats say the plan would blink off after school shift is paid back. (The plan raises $1.2 billion).
The plan would increase the cigarette tax to $2.83 per pack. It would also tax "little cigars" and moist snuff.
The plan would increase the excise tax on alcohol. House research says the tax hike would increase $1.58 for a bottle of spirits, 47 cents for a bottle of wine and 84 cents for a twelve pack of beer.
The plan also increases the property tax rebate for homeowners. House Democrats say 315,000 homeowners would get bigger refunds. About 116,000 homeowners would become eligible for the refund.
The plan would also increase the renter's credit, allow manufacturers to get an up-front sales tax exemption for capital equipment purchases and provide a credit for employers who hire qualified veterans.
A measure that would allow Minnesotans to vote early is headed to the floor of the Minnesota House, but it doesn't appear to be getting the bipartisan support that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has said is needed for election law changes.
The House Ways and Means Committee advanced the bill today by a vote of 15-12, with all Republicans opposed. The bill allows voters to cast their ballots at centralized polling places during a specified period before Election Day.
Rep. Bud Nornes, R-Fergus Falls, said he didn't see the difference between early voting and absentee voting. He also wondered what problem the bill would solve.
But Rep. Connie Bernardy, DFL-Fridley, the bill's chief author, said early voting is a better approach.
"Right now, absentee voting you need to have an excuse," Bernardy said. "Having early voting 15 days in advance of the election, you don't have to have an excuse. It costs about half as much to process a vote, and it creates access, especially for people with a disability or the elderly."
There are 32 states that already allow early voting.
The committee also advanced the House Omnibus Election Bill, which includes a provision to expand the use of absentee voting. It would eliminate the requirement that voters state a reason for not voting in person on Election Day.
The omnibus bill, which did receive bipartisan support, also reduces the margin that triggers an automatic, taxpayer-funded recount and tightens procedures to prevent felons from voting illegally.(0 Comments)
Democrats in the Minnesota Senate are proposing tapping a special health fund and proposing a surcharge on Health Maintenance Organizations and nursing homes.
Sen. Tony Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, said he's making the changes because he was told by Senate DFL leaders to cut $150 million from his budget. He said health and human services programs have already been cut over the past decade, and the changes are designed not to hurt people who need help.
"It's obvious that HHS is going to have to generate some revenue within our budget area. So we need to be thoughtful with how we do that. I think that having a few options on the table is incredibly valuable as we as a health care community try to get ready to make the right choices."
The Senate plan would also require HMOs to negotiate better prices with the state for people on state subsidized insurance. It adds $20 million over the next two years for nursing homes.
The Senate HHS budget is different from the House plan - which increases a surcharge on hospitals and puts a cap on the amount of money HMOs can keep in reserve. Both plans would have to be reconciled with Gov. Dayton's budget plan - which spends $320 million more than the House and Senate.
Update: The Senate bill would also keep the provider tax in place. Current law phases out that so-called sick tax by Dec. 31, 2019.
Here's the breakdown for the Senate HHS bill:
1) $190 million transfer from the Health Care Access Fund to the General Fund to pay for "additional revenue."
2) $216 million transfer from the Health Care Access Fund to the General Fund to help the state pay for MinnesotaCare recipients to enroll in MA.
3) $80 million one-time surcharge on HMOs.
4) $16 million surcharge on nursing facilities
5) $53 million to align Managed Care Organization rates to reflect recent experience.
Twenty-six business leaders are speaking out in support of legislation to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota.
They made their case for the measure in a letter sent today to Gov. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, and copied to all legislators. In it, the executives pointed to evidence of shifting public opinion in favor of gay marriage, and what they view as the inevitablity of its legalization.
They also stressed economic benefits:
"Discrimination is bad for business. A welcoming state is essential to recruiting and retaining the best young talent. Minnesota employeers have know this for years."
The letter also raised concerns about employees:
"Marriage inequality makes some of our employees second-class citizens. Turnover and a loss of productivity are two of the consequences that come when some employees are denied rights that most of us take for granted, including family issues and end-of-life decisions among many others."
The signers of the letter: Michael V. Ciresi, Michelle Courtright, Angie Craig, Charles M. Denny Jr., Jim Frey, Eric Frost, Bill George, Alan Goldbloom MD, Jim Graves, Amy Langer, Dick McFarland, Mary. K. Murray, Brock Nelson, Marilyn Carlson Nelson, Wendy Nelson, Tad Piper, James Pohlad, Robert Pohlad, William Pohlad, Laurie Savran, Scott Schneweis, Doug Spong, Dan Starks, Mike Sweeney, John Taft and Wing Witthuhn.
Jake Loesch, a spokesman for the group Minnesotans United, said he thinks the letter carries some weight.
"These are some very well-known business folks," Loesch said. "I think they can speak across the aisle to both Democrats and Republicans about why this is important."
Even though Gov. Mark Dayton has abandoned the idea, Democrats in the Minnesota Senate will push for an expansion of the state sales tax to clothing and many personal services, while lowering the rate from 6.875 percent to 6 percent.
The Tax Reform Division report released today keeps alive some the sales tax proposals that Dayton abandoned last month. Unlike the governor's original plan the DFL proposal would keep most business-to-business transactions exempt from the sales tax. Low income Minnesotans would be eligible for a tax credit on clothing purchases.
Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, said the proposal will help modernize the sales tax system.
"We are more and more a service economy. We deal with that," Rest said.
The personal services that would be subject to sales tax include:
--sports and dance instruction
--personal shopping services
Electronically-transferred digital books, music and movies would also be taxed. City and county government purchases would be exempt from sales taxes.
Businesses would lose the deduction for foreign operating corporation income. The corporate franchise tax rate would decrease, while the research and development tax credit would increase. There's also more money for angel investment credits.
The tax rate on cigarettes would increase 94 cents per pack.
In addition, the Senate plan includes the sports memorabilia and suite taxes that recently surfaced as potential financing backup for the new Vikings stadium.
Senate Democrats will release another piece of their tax plan, which is expected to include an income tax increase on top earners, later, this month.
Rep. Sen Dave Thompson, R-Lakville, called the report "just a big tax increase under the guise of reform."
The chair of the Transportation Finance Committee in the Minnesota Senate says he is backing off his plan to raise taxes to pay for transportation projects. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, says he's no longer proposing a more robust transportation financing package that would spend more on roads, bridges and transit. He says he made his decision after Gov. Dayton indicated he opposed raising the state's gas tax.
"The bill is going to be pretty much a status quo bill," Dibble said.
Dibble and Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, had hoped to propose a transportation financing bill that would raise the gas tax for roads and bridges and increase the sales tax in the Twin Cities metropolitan area and dedicate that money for transit projects. Dayton has included a transit tax in his budget. Dibble said it would be difficult to pass a transportation bill unless it included both financing options.
"I have never seen a major transportation bill pass that isn't balanced. I don't think we're going to be able to do so today," he said.
Dibble will hold a hearing on his bill on Wednesday. He said he made his decision after he met privately with Dayton. Both Dibble and Dayton said they plan to make the case in the coming months for putting more money into transportation projects.
Despite Dibble's stance, Hornstein, who chairs the House Transportation Finance Committee, isn't backing off his quest for more revenue. He says he's still pursuing financing options which include a statewide sales tax for transportation projects and a sales tax on fuel consumption. Hornstein says he's not ready to propose a status quo transportation funding bill.
"I do not think the house will be doing that bill but it's certainly one of the options on the table but at this point we're not leaning in that direction," Hornstein said.
Hornstein said he plans on introducing his transportation bill on Thursday.
Democrats in the Minnesota House have released their own list of proposed public construction projects, a day after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton outlined his bonding priorities.
The House DFL borrowing plan comes in at $800 million, compared to Dayton's $750 million proposal. It includes about $22 million more than the governor for higher education projects, but about $52 million less for improvements to state-run veterans homes.
Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, reminded members of the House Capital Investment Committee today that her bill will need Republican votes to pass
"I would write a different bill if I just needed a simple majority," Hausman said. "But this bill, unlike all the other budget bills, requires a super majority, and that's a more complicated task. So, I say to audience members and everyone, everyone has to help pass this bill. We have to work together."
At least one Republican was feeling good about the proposal's chances. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, told Hausman that she knows how to write a bonding bill that can pass.
"It's more geographically diverse, and it does some very good things for the state of Minnesota," Davids said. "I think it's a pretty good bill."
The House bonding bill has many of the same projects as the governor's plan, including $109 million for the next phase of renovation work on the State Capitol Building. It also matches the amounts for civic center expansions in Mankato ($14.5 million), Rochester ($35 million) and St. Cloud ($10.1 million), and an expansion of the Minnesota Children's Museum ($14 million).
A public hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday.
Other projects in the House bill include:
$47.5 million Bell Natural History Museum and Planetarium at the U of M(0 Comments)
$36 million Minnesota Security Hospital-St. Peter new facilities
$31 million Metro State University Science Education Center
$20 million DNR flood mitigation
$9.8 million Oliver Kelly Farm Revitalization
$7 million Chatfield Center for the Arts
$7 million Old Cedar Avenue Bride in Bloomington
$7 million Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Preservation
$4.9 million Duluth NorShor Theatre
$1.5 million Red Wing River Renaissance Project
The chairs of the House and Senate Transportation committees are redrafting their budget bills after Governor Dayton repeated his opposition to a gas tax increase. Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, says they are reworking the bill after Dayton's comments earlier in the day.
"We knew the governor had concerns but now we know he has significant concerns and we'll work with him," he said.
Hornstein and Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, have said that they want to increase the state gas tax to pay for additional road and bridge projects throughout Minnesota. They scheduled a news conference to discuss the proposal for the early afternoon, but they scrapped it after Dayton told reporters earlier this morning that he wasn't interested.
"I don't support a gas tax," Dayton told reporters. "I don't think the people of Minnesota are prepared to support it and that's the critical consideration."
Dayton has opposed a gas tax hike in the past, but Hornstein said some DFL legislators had hoped they could convince him to back it now.
Hornstein said he isn't backing off his plan to find more money for transportation projects.
"We need more revenue in the system," Hornstein said. "It's critical for the economy. We want a robust transportation bill coming out but we want everyone on the same page."
Hornstein didn't offer too many specifics but said new financing options include a sales tax on fuel consumption. He said a mileage tax is off the table and toll roads are highly unlikely.
Hornstein added that increasing the sales tax in the Twin Cities area for transit projects is unlikely unless there's new money for roads and bridges across Minnesota. Dayton has indicated he supports the so-called transit tax.
Gov. Mark Dayton released a $750 million list of proposed construction projects today that he estimates will create 21,000 jobs throughout the state.
Dayton's bonding bill recommendations include civic center expansions, repairs to college buildings and upgrades at state-run veterans homes. But the biggest single project is $109 million for the next phase of renovation work on the State Capitol Building in St. Paul. Dayton said the Capitol renovation will be unpleasant and disruptive, but he thinks most lawmakers understand its importance.
"Visitors come in here every day, and we owe it to their safety and protection, as well as to the generations of Minnesotans who will get the benefits of this to do it and do it right," Dayton said. "I think we'll do that."
Republican leaders have said they support the Capitol renovation, but it's not clear of they'll provide the votes needed to pass a large bonding bill this session. A bonding bill requires support from a 60 percent supermajority to pass. House Democrats release their bonding bill proposal on Tuesday.
Here are some highlights of Dayton's plan released by his office:
State Capitol Restoration
The governor's bonding proposal would invest $109 million in a major restoration of the state Capitol, making the building functional and safe for the next 100 years. For three decades, plans for repairing the aging building have been debated and neglected. But the funding provided in this bonding proposal would complete restoration of the building by the end of 2016. Restoration measures would include:
• Replacing the roof and completing repair of the crumbling stone exterior
• Replacing of the corroded plumbing system, which was first installed in 1905
• Upgrading the building's mechanical and electrical systems
• Making the building more energy efficient
• Improving access to the Capitol for all Minnesotans
• Enhancing the safety and security of the building and improving telecommunications
Gov. Dayton's bonding proposal also invests $189 million in our state's higher education systems to ensure that Minnesota students have access to world-class labs, classrooms, and training for the jobs of the future. Highlights of education projects included in the governor's proposal include:
• $35 million for infrastructure improvements at 25 MnSCU campuses statewide
• $85 million to complete the STEM Tate Laboratory renovation at the University of Minnesota
• $32.5 million for build new teaching and research labs, classrooms, and student support areas at Metro State University in St. Paul; this will allow the university to add five new science degrees
• $15 million for infrastructure improvements at eight University of Minnesota campuses statewide
Regional Civic Centers and Downtown Improvements
The governor's bonding proposal invests $98.5 million in the downtowns of regional centers; projects that will create jobs, attract additional private investment, and support economic development in communities across Minnesota. Those investments include:
• $35 million for the Rochester Civic Center expansion
• $20 million for reconstruction of Nicollet Avenue in downtown Minneapolis
• $14.5 million for a new addition to the Mankato Civic Center
• $14 million to double the size of the Children's Museum in downtown St. Paul
• $10.1 million for an expansion of the St. Cloud Civic Center
Roads and Bridges
Investing in strong, reliable transportation infrastructure is a critical part of building an economic environment where businesses can thrive. Repairing our roads and bridges for the future with smart investments will help support and attract businesses, and put hundreds of Minnesotans back to work in the construction trades. That is why the Governor's bonding proposal invests $46.6 million in transportation infrastructure, including:
• $25 million to improve local roads at the TCAAP site in Arden Hills and the Trunk Highway Turnback in Rochester
• $20 million to fund bridge repair and replacements statewide
• $1.6 million to make needed improvements at the Metro Bus Operations Center in St. Cloud
The proposal also includes additional investments in projects of statewide and regional importance, including:
• $57.8 million investment in veterans, including an expansion of the Minneapolis Veterans Home and other improvements statewide
• $54.8 million for regional treatment centers and mental health facilities
• $50.3 million for asset preservation and infrastructure improvements at state correctional facilities
• $40 million for affordable housing
• $51.5 million for pollution abatement, wastewater infrastructure, and clean water projects statewide
• $24 million to improve roads, bridges, and buildings at state parks and trails
• $15 million for flood hazard mitigation in Moorhead
• $4 million for parks and trails
• $3 million for reforestation projects in state forests
There are more details of Dayton's plan on his website.(0 Comments)
Party delegates today elected former state Rep. Keith Downey of Edina as chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party.
The vote came at a meeting in Bloomington. Downey, who won on the first ballot, defeated three other candidates to win the position. He said he wants to unite Republicans who have squabbled over the party's direction in recent years.
"The key to our support is to have a united group of Republicans speaking the truth and getting out in front of the people of Minnesota," Downey told party delegates. "That is how we're going to win in 2014. I believe that in my heart."
Downey served in the Minnesota House from 2009 until last year. He lost a bid for the state Senate last November. Downey has the difficult task of leading a party that is more than $1.5 million in debt and is divided over the best direction for the future.
He takes over as chair from Pat Shortridge, who did not seek a second term.
Downey said Shortridge did an excellent job of rebuilding the party after Tony Sutton abruptly quit as party chair in 2011. A detailed internal audit found that the party was nearly $2 million in debt at the time.
Shortridge told reporters after the event that he is leaving the party in better shape than when he was elected. For his part, Downey isn't making any promises on how fast they'll erase the party's debt, but he said he hopes he can persuade donors to start giving again.
"There are a lot of people, and they are major donors and they are minor donors who have been sitting on the sidelines," Downey said. "I hope with the positive momentum that we've got, we can go out and execute a plan across all levels and restore giving to the party."
Republicans are looking to end a political drought for statewide office. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the last Republican to win statewide office and that was in 2006. Democrats also control both chambers of the Legislature.
One Minnesota U.S. Senate seat, all of the constitutional offices including governor, every seat in the U.S. House and every seat in the Minnesota House are on the ballot in 2014.
Several potential gubernatorial candidates, including Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, state Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie, state Rep. Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove and state Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville, were at the Bloomington meeting talking with delegates.
No candidates have yet announced that they intend to challenge DFL Sen. Al Franken or DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
Delegates also re-elected Kelly Fenton as deputy chair of the party and Chris Fields as party secretary.(0 Comments)
Photo: Mark Zdechlik
Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Al Franken heard about the high cost of higher education from college students and administrators during a round table discussion at St. Paul College on Tuesday. The two Democrats said students are graduating with too much debt and that federal and state aid to help people go to college needs to be increased.
The amount of debt college students take on now is a far cry from what it was a generation ago, according to Dayton.
"When I was an aide to then Sen. Walter Mondale in 1975-1976 education was one of my areas of responsibility," said Dayton. " And back then federal student financial aid was one-third grants, one-third loans and one-third college work study. Now it's 2 percent college work study, 18 percent grants for the poorest students, and 80 percent loans, which means for most students and their families it's loans, loans and more loans."
Dayton noted that Minnesota student aid programs have not been updated in more than a decade and said the state needs to do a lot of catching up.
The average Minnesota college students graduates with $29,000 in debt, said Franken.
"This is the trend we're seeing and it's not good. I don't think it's good for America," said Franken. "It's certainly not good for young people who are going to be saddled with debt."
Franken said although federal Pell grants have increased, they are nowhere near as large as they should be. He said he's pushing legislation that would require clear, standardized financial aid letters to help students better understand what they're being offered.
Gov. Dayton announced today that his chief of staff will take a lead role in talks with the Mayo Clinic about its plans to expand in Rochester.
"I'm asking my chief of staff, Tina Smith, to spearhead the administration's role in that," Dayton said when responding to criticism by some area lawmakers that he wasn't doing enough to get the project done.
The Mayo Clinic is seeking more than $500 million in taxpayer money over the next 20 years to make infrastructure improvements in Rochester. Clinic officials say they want the state to commit to the project before they spend $3 billion to expand in the city.
The plan has been met with resistance in the Minnesota House. The House taxes committee chair, Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, says she has concerns about the financing plan and asked the clinic to come up with another one.
Dayton, DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Majority Tom Bakk all say they want to do something for the Mayo Clinic but have not agreed on the best financing mechanism to get the project done.
Smith is no stranger to controversial and big projects. She was instrumental in ushering through the Vikings stadium legislation during last year's session.
She says she intends to start meeting with Mayo Clinic officials and others soon.
Gov. Dayton will appoint former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Dayton will announce Lillehaug at an afternoon news conference, according to several people with knowledge of the appointment.
Lillehaug served as Dayton's attorney in the 2010 gubernatorial recount against Republican Tom Emmer. Lillehaug also represented DFL Sen. Al Franken and got his start in politics working for former U.S. Sen. Walter Mondale. Lillehaug successfully sued the state over its handgun permit law. The decision in that case allowed churches to ban guns on their property. He also played a part in overturning then Gov. Tim Pawlenty's decision to unilaterally enact spending cuts in 2009. He is an attorney with the Minneapolis firm Fredrikson and Byron.
Lillehaug also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2000.
He isn't the first supreme court justice to be active party politics. Republican Gov. Pawlenty nominated his campaign attorney and an attorney for the Republican Party to the court. Republican Gov. Arne Carlson nominated his former chief of staff and his former campaign attorney to the court.
Lillehaug will replace Justice Paul Anderson, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in May.(0 Comments)
Democrats in the House and Senate say they're looking to pass a capital works bonding bill this year. Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, says she wants a bill that borrows $800 million for projects across the state.
Hausman says she hopes to release a list of projects in early April. She says she's working to find eight Republicans to who will vote for the bill by offering projects in their districts.
"If the local legislator isn't willing to vote for it, it's really hard to imagine why would all of the rest of us deliver to that community," Hausman said. "We usually look for support from the local legislator before a local project goes in."
Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, says the Senate bill will also be "in the ballpark" of $800 million. Cohen, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, says he's letting Senate Capital Investment Chair Leroy Stumpf work on the specifics.
"We would anticipate that we'll be doing something," Cohen said. "Leroy has started preliminary work but we're going to wait until after the break to actually start putting things to see where we are in terms of the size of the bill or what's in it."
Cohen says they'll start working on a bonding bill after they return from the Easter break.
Governor Dayton says he intends to release his own proposed bonding bill soon.
A bonding bill needs a 60 percent supermajority to pass in the House and Senate so both bodies will need to pick up Republican votes.
Here's a post from MPR News editor Bill Catlin
With the surge in employment over the past six months the Department of Employment and Economic Development reported this week, we wondered which of the past several governors presided over the most job growth as of 26 months in office.
The results are here. (Because total employment was different at the start of each governor's term, we've indexed the start to 100 to allow valid comparisons.)
Now, a couple of important caveats.
1) Governors get a lot of heat for bad times, and try to take credit for good times. But, in economic reality, they have little influence over the health of the job market.
2) Recessions confound.
Both Pawlenty and Dayton took office amid very slow economic recoveries. But the economy Dayton inherited was much more brutalized by the Great Recession (160,000 Minnesota jobs lost) than the one Pawlenty inherited ( 53,000 jobs lost).(0 Comments)
Gov. Dayton announced today that his dog, Mesabi, died. Dayton wrote on his Facebook page that Mesabi died after having surgery to remove his spleen and to remove a cancerous tumor.
"He was a loyal, devoted friend," Dayton wrote. "He and his sister, Dakota, who passed away two years ago, brought so much joy into my life. As I wrapped him in a blanket, I thought of a line from a long-ago song by "Blood, Sweat, and Tears." "And when I die, when I'm gone, there'll be one child born in this world, to carry on. Carry on."
Dayton wrote that his dog was two weeks shy of his eleventh birthday.
Dayton hasn't been shy about sharing his love for his dogs with the public. Dakota and Mesabi were seen in some of his campaign commercials.
Dayton has two other German Shepherds, Wanamingo and Itasca.(0 Comments)
GOP U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has not been shy about voicing her concerns over the federal health care law enacted under President Obama. But today Bachmann upped the rhetoric on the law by saying on the House floor that the law will "literally kill people."
"The American people, especially vulnerable women, vulnerable children, vulnerable senior citizens now get to pay more and get less," Bachmann said. "That's why we're here because we're saying let's repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let's not do that."
Bachmann's comments come one day after Gov. Dayton signed a bill that creates a Minnesota-based health insurance exchange. The exchange, which is the centerpiece of the federal health care law, will create an online marketplace for health insurance. Advocates of the plan say roughly 1.3 million Minnesotans will shop for health care on the site. It is expected to insure 300,000 Minnesotans who don't have health coverage today.
Bachmann has been no stranger to making dramatic statements that end up being false. She got a lot of blowback this week from fact-checkers who took aim at her comments at CPAC last weekend.
Bachmann lost a bid to be the GOP presidential candidate last year and went on to narrowly win her re-election bid against Democrat Jim Graves. On Monday, she declined to say whether she intends to run for the U.S. Senate or for re-election in 2014.
Democrats in the Minnesota House want the state's wealthiest residents to temporarily pay an income tax surcharge to eliminate a funding delay to state schools.
The Democrats released a budget outline today that also includes a permanent income tax increase similar to the one Gov. Dayton has proposed on couples with taxable incomes of at least $250,000 and individuals who make $150,000 and more. The House DFL temporary tax increase would hit people making more than $500,000 a year.
House DFL leaders say higher taxes are needed to erase the deficit, and increase funding for education.
"We really want to make 2013 the education session," said DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen. "It is the single most important way to ensure Minnesota's greatness to come."
But Republican House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt says the tax hikes would make Minnesota's income tax rate one of the highest in the nation.
"Democrats want Minnesota to be number one in higher taxes," Daudt said. "Republicans want Minnesota to be number one in job opportunities, and I think that's the biggest difference between Republicans and Democrats today."
Daudt says he thinks policy leaders can erase the projected $627 million deficit and pay back an $800 million school funding delay without raising taxes but have not specified which programs they would cut to do it.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says he isn't sure he wants to put Minnesota in the top five states nationally in any tax category. He says Senate Democrats will release their spending priorities on Wednesday.
Here are the House targets:0 Comments)
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton leveled some sharp criticism today against the National Rifle Association and its opposition to universal background checks on gun purchases.
Dayton said it would be "very disappointing" if a bill requiring background checks failed this session. He also took issue with NRA claims that such measures would infringe on Second Amendment rights and could lead to gun confiscations. Dayton told reporters that no one is going to confiscate the guns of law abiding citizens.
"It's just a total bogus, hyped up way of trying to keep their membership up," Dayton said. "It's so beyond the pale of anything anybody is considering or proposing. We don't need the NRA to be posturing around to 'protect those rights,' because they don't need to be protected. They're sanctified in the constitution and every politician I know who's elected to office -- Republican, Democrat and the like -- understand that that's a right, and no one is going to take it away."
Dayton made his comments at the same time a House committee was holding a hearing on the background check bill. During that hearing, an NRA official said the proposal is "wrong," and his organization will continue to fight it.
The Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance is telling its members to show up at Dayton's scheduled town hall budget meeting in Duluth Wednesday evening to urge him to oppose the universal background check legislation.
Speaking of the budget, Dayton also leveled some criticism at his Republicans critics, whom he claims are distorting his tax proposal. The governor stressed that his proposal would raise income taxes only on the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans, but Republicans won't tell the truth about what his policy really is.
"They know that if they presented the facts to people, the people would support my position," he said.
On the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, Dayton also reflected on his vote against the war as a U.S. Senator. He said the vote looks proper to him in hindsight.
A few months before the start of the war, Dayton joined Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-MN) and others in voting against the resolution to authorize military action against Iraq. He said he thinks many of his former Senate colleagues now regret voting in favor of the resolution. Dayton said misinformation from the Bush administration made it a difficult vote, but he has no regrets.
"The only way out of a bad war, which we're still trying to get out of in Afghanistan officially and Iraq unofficially, is not to start it. And to start a war under false pretext, as the Iraq war began, is really disgraceful."
Hospital officials and the Minnesota Nurses Association are nearing an agreement to study and publish details about nurse staffing. The agreement would be an alternative to a bill moving in the Legislature that requires hospitals to keep a minimum number of nurses working at all times.
The agreement being discussed would require hospitals to create typical staffing levels for units and list them online. It also calls on the Minnesota Department of Health to study the relationship between staffing at hospitals and patient outcomes.
Rep. Tina Liebling DFL-Rochester says she's pleased the hospitals and the union are finding common ground on a divisive issue.
"This is in no way to be considered a final resolution of the issues that are before us in this bill," Liebling said. "But we're going in the right direction."
The bill still has a ways to go, and the Senate has yet to start its consideration of the nursing proposal. But the issue rose to the level where House Speaker Paul Thissen personally worked to broker a compromise.
Gov. Dayton also urged the two sides to work out a deal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report....(0 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton's revised budget plan relies on higher income taxes for the state's top earners and an increased cigarette tax to erase a projected deficit and increase spending for education.
The DFL governor announced details of his revised plan today.
It does not include a sales tax on services and does away with Dayton's earlier $1.4 billion plan to give homeowners a $500 property tax credit. The new plan also does away with a tax cut for businesses the governor had originally proposed in January.
Increasing taxes on the wealthy is a matter of fairness, Dayton said at a Capitol news conference.
"The most regressive state and local tax is the state's personal income tax," he said. "Therefore my persistent efforts to add a forth tier to the state income tax, which would raise taxes only the top 2 percent of earners, would reduce the current unfairness whereby middle income taxpayers in Minnesota pay a 26 percent higher share of their incomes in state and local taxes than do the top 1 percent."
Republicans are criticizing Dayton's call for increased taxes. They said Dayton should cut spending to address the projected $627 million two-year budget shortfall.
"I think it's time for the people of Minnesota to weigh in on all of the taxes and just ask the question, do you need high taxes to grow the economy? We don't believe so," said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R- Eden Prairie.
Dayton said if Republicans have an alternative they should lay out exactly what they would cut.
Dayton's budget proposes spending an additional $640 million in education. He said his plan would provide access to early education for 10,000 young children, fund all-day kindergarten for 46,000 kids, and increase school funding for every district in the state.
His budget would also increase direct student aid for post-secondary students, and increase funding for the MnSCU system and the University of Minnesota.
Dayton's plan also increases spending for economic development programs by $86.5 million.(5 Comments)
Gov. Dayton says he thinks the Minnesota Nurses Association and hospitals across Minnesota need to get to the table and negotiate a deal on a nursing staffing bill. Dayton addressed the issue in remarks to a noontime meeting of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.
"We want hospitals and nursing homes and others to be properly staffed, and there are probably better ways to achieve that than some arbitrary number which does have unintended consequences," Dayton said. "I continue to say to both sides, work it out."
Dayton suggested one idea would be to create a business/labor council that has an equal number of members. He said a similar council that deals worker's compensation ensures that any proposal that moves forward has support from both business and labor.
The Minnesota Nurses Association is pushing for a bill that would eventually establish a set nurse staffing ratio in hospitals. The union says the bill would ensure patient safety. Hospital officials say staffing ratios would result in added costs and that it's not the Legislature's role to dictate how hospitals are run.
The bill seemed to hit a roadblock in the Minnesota House when Health and Human Services Policy Committee Chair Tina Liebling said last week that she wouldn't hold a hearing on the bill unless the union and hospitals started to compromise. The Rochester Democrat has now scheduled a hearing on the bill for Friday. Liebling declined comment when asked about her decision to hold a hearing on the bill.
No committees in the Minnesota Senate have held hearings on the bill.
Several supporters of the legislation say committee hearings would help the union and the hospitals reach an agreement on the issue.
Gov. Dayton is scheduled to propose his revised budget plan
tomorrow. Update: Dayton's spokeswoman says he will not release his budget plan tomorrow. She says it will be released later this week.
Over the past week, he's discussed some of his plans and hinted at others. Here's a handy cheat sheet for those wondering what he'll continue to back and what's either getting dropped or likely will be dropped.
The sales tax expansion is gone.
Dayton announced last week that he's scrapping his plan to expand the sales tax to business services. He confirmed to reporters today that he's also dropping his entire sales tax plan. It would have also expanded the sales tax to consumer services while lowering the overall rate.
"It's going to be gone from my proposal," Dayton told reporters. " I don't think it's fair to tax consumers if you're not taxing businesses. We treat them equally now for the sales tax application so I don't think we should change that."
Top earners will pay more in income taxes
Dayton has repeatedly said that his plan to raise income taxes on the top 2 percent of Minnesota's earners will stay in his budget. It's no surprise, since it was a major part of his campaign for governor in 2010. He told reporters that he'll keep the new income tax bracket at 9.85 percent for individuals with more than $150,000 of taxable income, and couples with more than $250,000.
Smokers will pay more
Dayton also confirmed today that his budget plan will continue to increase taxes on tobacco. His initial plan included a 94-cent increase in the tax on a pack of cigarettes. Dayton said he doesn't like the tax but said he was convinced by public health officials who said higher tobacco prices would reduce the number of people who smoke.
Some spending will stay the same.
Dayton says he's committed to keeping the same level of spending for education and economic development.
"We're going to be able to make the same level of investments in education, economic development and the like because the net revenues in this configuration come out a couple hundred million dollars less than previously," Dayton said.
It isn't clear whether Dayton will continue to push for increased spending in other areas (like aid to cities and counties).
The property tax rebate is in trouble
Dayton wouldn't confirm that his $500 property tax rebate is gone from his budget plan, but he suggested as much to reporters.
"You can look at the numbers and see that a big part of the funding for the property tax reductions came from other parts of it," Dayton said. "If those aren't there, it's going to be hard to do."
The plan aimed to give each homeowner a $500 rebate to help pay their property tax bill. But the plan's $1.4 billion cost may be too high without the sales tax expansion.
Bonding bill will be $750 million
Dayton says he plans to release a bonding bill proposal next week that borrows $750 million for public works projects across Minnesota. He says the plan will include funds to renovate the Minneapolis Veterans Home, the expansion of civic centers in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud and the State Capitol renovation.
Lawmakers will rely on Dayton's budget plan and the latest revenue forecast as they craft their own budget plan. The state faces a $627 million projected budget deficit in the next biennium.
DFL legislative leaders say they plan to release their spending targets next week.
Gov. Dayton says he plans to release a plan next week that borrows $750 million for public works projects across Minnesota.
He says the plan will include funds to renovate the Minneapolis Veterans Home and the expansion of civic centers in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud. The governor also says he's including money to continue the renovation of the State Capitol. The state has already committed $44 million for that project.
"It will have to include that [Capitol Renovation] or the project will not go forward," Dayton said.
Dayton says he's planning to propose a bonding bill this year and another one next year.
Supporters argue that they should push for bonding bills this year because interest rates are low and the construction industry is still recovering from the economic downturn.
Critics argue the state shouldn't take on more debt at a time when Minnesota is facing a $627 million deficit.(0 Comments)
A bill that would require Minnesota hospitals to meet national standards on nurse staffing appears headed for a roadblock in the Legislature.
The chair of the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee says she doesn't intend to hold a hearing on the bill unless the Minnesota Nurses Association and the hospitals start getting closer to a compromise on the issue.
The union is lobbying hard for the legislation because it says nurse staffing levels in some hospitals are too low and could put patients in danger.
The House Government Operations Committee approved the bill last week and referred it to the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee. But Rep. Tina Liebling,DFL-Rochester, said she's not planning to hold a hearing on the bill this year. She said she's not sure creating staffing standards is the best answer.
"I think it goes way too far in that respect because we don't measure inputs anymore," Liebling said. "We measure outcomes. We have hospitals that are very different across the state and one sized fits all really doesn't work."
Liebling said she intends to push the union and the hospitals to reach an agreement on the matter.
Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, said he'll keep pushing for a hearing on his bill.
"I think we gain a great deal on not just this bill but on all bills by getting a good amount of public input and input from both sides and it contributes to a better solution," Atkins said.
Nurse staffing standards have been debated in the Legislature for roughly a decade. The bill has made little traction in past years, but the DFL-controlled Legislature has made the nurse's union more hopeful about their chances.
The union's political fund spent $450,000 to help Democrats win control of both chambers of the Legislature in 2012. The union also gave $50,000 to the Alliance for a Better Minnesota to help Democrats win.
The Minnesota Hospital Association spent $65,000 to help elect DFL and GOP candidates to the Legislature in 2012.
The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis, said he thinks a committee in the Senate will hold a hearing on his bill this week.
He said the Legislature still has a solid chance of passing the bill this session.
"I'm going to move the bill and hopefully give both sides enough room to know that the bill is moving and they hopefully get behind closed doors and come to some resolution on the issue," Hayden said.
Hospitals have been lobbying heavily against the bill because they say it would add to cost of health care.
Supporters of a bill that would require public officials in Minnesota to disclose more about their sources of income will have to wait another year.
House Elections Committee Chair Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins, initially said he wanted to pass something this year, but now he says he's not holding a hearing on the bill because he thinks it needs more work.
"I am committed to doing something and doing something significant," Simon said. "I would have liked to have done it this year but it became clear that a lot of stakeholders and a lot of public groups want to weigh in on this."
DFL leaders said at the start of session that they wanted to increase the disclosure rules for constitutional officers, members of the Legislature and other public officials. The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board also recommended the Legislature tighten the requirements to include compensation from clients and any income earned by spouses and children.
An investigation by MPR News found that in many cases the disclosure forms filed by elected officials provided little if any meaningful information about the sources of their outside income and potential conflicts of interest.
Includes latest reporting from MPR's Mark Zdechlik with help from Tim Pugmire
Signaling a major shift in his budget and tax proposals, Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday there won't be a sales tax on business or consumer services in the the revised budget plan he'll release next week.
"I'm not just getting an ear-full of opposition, I'm getting a TCF Stadium-full of opposition," Dayton told a west metro chamber of commerce breakfast.
"I'm coming out next week with my revised budget based on the better revenue forecast and the (business-to-business taxes) will not be in it, so you can all rest assured there," he said.
Dayton had planned to raise more than $2 billion by taxing services, including numerous business services such as legal, advertising and accounting work. Expanding the sales tax base was part of a sweeping plan to lower the tax rate by 20 percent and provide property tax refunds to every household in the state.
Dayton said losing that much revenue from the plan would force him to re-evaluate other parts of his proposal, including $500 property tax rebates for homeowners and reducing the sales tax rate to 5.5 percent.
"The property tax rebates and the lowering the sales tax rate are definitely going to be affected," he said. "I can't say to what extent at this point, but, yes b-to-b was very important from a revenue standpoint and being able to do some other the other tax reductions that we wanted to do."
The plan to tax business services was controversial from the start, with opponents arguing it would kill jobs and damage the state's economy.
The ground shifted last week when a revised forecast showed Minnesota's projected budget deficit had shrunk from an earlier $1.1 billion to $627 million for 2014-15, making it harder to justify the business services taxes.
Dayton also said it is unlikely he will continue to push for taxing sales of items of clothing that cost more than $100.
But he said he still supports raising income taxes on the state's top earners and raising the cigarette tax by 94 cents per pack.
Reaction from the Capitol was swift.
Senate Minority leader David Hann, R- Eden Prairie, said he was encouraged by the move. Hann said he now hopes the governor takes a different approach to the budget.
"We hope that means that's he's going to perhaps scale back his expectations for spending and perhaps even take the approach we did two years ago of trying to manage the budget within the parameters of available revenue," Hann said. "We think that would be a good idea. Maybe he'll go that far. We don't know yet."
DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen of Minneapolis said his caucus had also heard many complaints about the business tax proposal. He said it was never going to be included in the House DFL budget plan.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said it's not a surprise the governor dropped the plan because he doesn't think Dayton was ever serious about it in the first place.
"This was just a way to draw fire and have a shiny object that would distract the public from the other tax increases and spending proposals in his plan. But I don't think that anyone seriously though that the business to business tax had any chance of ever becoming law," he said.
Dayton said he's planning a long meeting Saturday with his finance team to finalize his new budget rework.
"I thought we had a good package overall because it would have lowered taxes state and local overall for most Minnesotans -- middle income families and individuals," Dayton said. "We did our very best to get that message out but you know people would pick on the one thing they didn't like about the tax side of it and leave out the investments in education and leave out the reduction in taxes elsewhere."
Dayton would not give other specifics Friday on what his revised plan will hold. But he said he expects the budget and tax debate and revisions to "come to a good conclusion at the end."
DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen says the B to B tax would never be a part of their Plan C. He thanks Gov. Dayton for listening to them.— tomscheck (@tomscheck) March 8, 2013
Thissen says he expects the business community to now support Dayton's income tax hike on top earners.— tomscheck (@tomscheck) March 8, 2013
GOP Senate Minority David Hann says he's "encouraged" that Dayton is dropping the B to B proposal.— tomscheck (@tomscheck) March 8, 2013
Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday the revised budget plan he will release next week will not include a sales tax on business or consumer services.
Speaking to an early morning meeting of the Twin West Chamber of Commerce Dayton said he's responding to criticism from the business community and dropping the service sales tax.
"My proposal obviously lacks public support even though most Minnesotans would see a reduction in their overall state and local tax burdens and thus probably lacks legislative support. And now it lacks mine," Dayton said.
Dayton had planned to raise more than $2 billion by taxing services, including numerous business services such as legal, advertising and accounting work. Expanding the sales tax base was part of a sweeping plan to lower the tax rate by 20 percent and provide property tax refunds to every household in the state.
Dayton told MPR News other elements of his original plan will definitely be affected by his decision to drop the services sales tax. He said he plans to hold a meeting with his finance team Saturday to work out the details of his new budget and announce the plan next week.
Dayton still supports raising income taxes on the state's top earners and still plans to raise cigarette taxes.
Former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman announced tonight on Twitter that he won't run for political office in 2014. Coleman announced earlier this year that he would not run against DFL Sen. Al Franken but tonight's announcement means he's ruling out a run for governor as well.
Public service is an important part of my life.It will remain so even though I will not run for public office in 2014.— Norm coleman (@normcoleman) March 8, 2013
Want to mentor a new generation of optimistic, limited government focused leaders who aren't afraid to find common ground to solve problems— Norm coleman (@normcoleman) March 8, 2013
will focus time and energy helping MInnesota elect Senator &Governor who support free enterprise,efficient govt & seek 2bring folks together— Norm coleman (@normcoleman) March 8, 2013
Coleman's announcement, which was first reported by KSTP's Tom Hauser, means there is now a wide open field for Republicans looking to challenge DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Franken.
Coleman has been repeatedly mentioned as a top candidate to challenge either Franken or Dayton in 2014. He lost to Franken in 2008 by 312 votes.
U.S. Rep. John Kline and U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen have left open the possibility of challenging Franken in 2014.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has said he's thinking about challenging Dayton. Other possible candidates include state Sen. Julie Rosen, state Rep. Kurt Zellers, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek and businesssman Scott Honour.
A Minnesota House committee today approved a bill that would allow higher contributions to political candidates running for state offices and the Legislature.
The bill approved by the House Elections Committee would also require additional disclosure from independent groups that spend money to influence elections.
Increasing the campaign contribution limits will help candidates compete with outside groups that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL- Golden Valley.
"We're getting to a point where outside interest groups and their agendas are driving our political campaigns rather than candidates and their conversations with voters," Winkler said.
Winkler's bill would allow donors to give candidates for governor $6,000 every election cycle. Current law allows gubernatorial candidates to raise $2,000 in an election year and $500 in other years. Candidates for state Senate would be able to raise $3,000 for the cycle instead of $800. House members would be able to raise $1,500 per cycle instead of $600.
Several groups, including Common Cause Minnesota and the League of Women Voters, praised the bill but worried that increasing the donor and spending limits will only give more power to moneyed interests.
The bill would also require all independent groups, including non-profit trade groups, to disclose receipts and expenditures. It would require associations to disclose high-dollar donors. Current law does not require trade groups and other non-profits to disclose their donors. Democrats complained last election that business groups used the issue advocacy loophole as a way to promote and defeat political candidates.
Andrea Rau with the anti-abortion group, Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, spoke against the bill. It would have a chilling effect on donors to her organization, said Rau.
"Regardless of intent, it does seem that the real effect of these burdensome reporting requirements is less to inform the public and more to deter citizens from publicly engaging in the issues of the day," Rau said.
The House Elections Committee approved the measure on a divided voice vote. The bill has several more committee stops before it reaches the House floor.
Gov. Dayton has said he will only sign elections bills that have bipartisan support.(0 Comments)
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton hosted a private breakfast this morning with Archbishop John Nienstedt and Catholic Bishops from around Minnesota, but according to the governor, they did not spend a lot of time discussing same-sex marriage.
Nienstedt was a leading supporter of last fall's failed campaign to amend the state constitution with a ban on same-sex marriage. Catholic leaders are now lining up against the proposed legislation to legalize gay marriage in Minnesota.
"We didn't talk at all about the amendment, and we really didn't talk about the law or its prospects or anything like that," Dayton said.
Dayton said only aspects of the issue came up, including a concern about being punished for applying their religious principles. On other issues, he said the archbishop and bishops expressed support for a minimum wage increase and more funding for families on public assistance. Dayton said he also heard concerns about the impact of proposed anti-bullying legislation on private schools.
"They think they're doing a better job of preventing bullying in their schools," he said. "They think some of the requirements that are being written into the legislation now would be undully prescriptive and restrictive."
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said today he would be comfortable with increasing Minnesota's minimum wage to $9.00 or $9.50 an hour.
Dayton's preference falls below the DFL proposal advancing in the House, which would increase the minimum wage from $6.15 an hour to $10.55 by 2015. But it's higher than the $7.50 minimum wage increase that Senate DFL leaders introduced early in the session. There also are Senate bills at other levels, including $10.55. Dayton told reporters that he thought his preferred range was a "good target." He said he believes the minimum wage should be enough to allow someone working full time to support a family of four at the poverty level.
"Then with more experience and training, they can go up and achieve the American dream," Dayton said. "But we want work to pay, and if we're letting businesses hire people for less than they need to get out of poverty, then the rest of us as taxpayers end up paying all these other programs to support them."
Dayton also said he supports automatic inflationary increases to the minimum wage. That provision is in the House and Senate proposals.
Business owners pushed back against any minimum wage increase during a Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee hearing.
Mike Hickey of the National Federation of Independent Business told lawmakers that a big increase would make it harder for a teenager to find a job.
"When you have to pay some very young person that much money who needs a lot of supervision, I think a lot of employers are going to look for other alternatives," Hickey said. "They're not just going to pay somebody that much money who has virtually no experience in life. That's just a reality of ramping the minimum wage up that high."
Labor groups and supporters of an increase argued that a higher minimum wage will help boost the state's economy.(0 Comments)
Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, had some harsh words Wednesday for those who say the Senate should just pass a gun control bill that was negotiated by House Democrats and Republicans, the Minnesota Sheriffs Association and gun rights groups.
The group announced legislation today that would forbid convicted felons from possessing ammunition (they're already banned from possessing firearms) and increase penalties for so-called straw purchases, where people buy guns for others who are forbidden to own them. The bill would also speed up disclosure to a federal database that lists mentally ill people who shouldn't carry a weapon.
The measure doesn't include universal background checks for gun purchases - which the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance oppose. Latz says he'll continue to push for universal background checks regardless of the NRA's position.
"I won't concede that the NRA runs the state Senate." Latz said. "I'm not going to do something or not do something just because the NRA says do it or don't do it."
Latz said he believes the Senate Judiciary Committee has the votes to pass universal background checks.
Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said he'll continue to push for background checks in the Public Safety Committee which he chairs, despite signs that the committee won't approve a bill including that provision.
Gov. Dayton told reporters today that he supports expanded background checks but wouldn't say whether he'd veto gun legislation that didn't include the language.
Andrew Rothman, with the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, said he believes background checks won't reach Dayton's desk.
"He's going to have to decide the same thing Rep. Paymar is," Rothman said. "Gov. Dayton is going to have to decide whether he wants to sign a good bill or veto a good bill and get nothing."
Rothman said the alternative legislation focuses on those who shouldn't own guns while protecting the constitutional rights of everyone else.
The so-called compromise legislation does not have a Senate author yet.
A hearing on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota is expected to be held next week.
Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, who chairs the House Civil Law Committee, said he intends to hold a hearing next Tuesday or Wednesday. Lesch said he expects the hearing to be extended into the evening to ensure that the public has ample opportunity to testify.
"My intent is to get all of the proponents and opponents on a list," Lesch said. "I will take proponents and opponents alternatively."
Lesch also said next week's hearing will be the only committee stop in the House. And even though the legislation has received plenty of media scrutiny, Lesch said he doesn't expect any fireworks because the issue received plenty of attention during the last election year.
"It's not one of those bills that came out of the blue upon which everyone have to get organized," Lesch said.
Voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage last November.(7 Comments)
Groups spent $65 million to lobby Gov. Dayton's administration, the Legislature and metropolitan units of government in 2011, according to a new report from the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board.
The top five in lobbying spending were: Xcel Energy ($2.3 million), The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce ($2 million), the Minnesota Business Partnership ($980,000), Alliant Energy ($960,000) and the Minneapolis Radiation Oncology Physicians ($900,000), the report said.
Other big spenders included the Minnesota Vikings ($840,000), The MN AFL-CIO ($820,000), the Coalition of MN Businesses ($748,000) and the DFL-leaning group The Alliance for a Better Minnesota ($670,000).
The lobbying expenses in 2011 came during a tumultuous time for Minnesota government. Dayton and the GOP-controlled Legislature were at odds over the best way to craft a two-year budget. The stalemate led to a three week state government shutdown.
You can read the full report here.
Gov. Dayton often does interviews. For the most part, they (like today's appearance on MPR's The Daily Circuit) focus on serious policy proposals. But in one recent interview, Dayton was asked whether he would sign a bill into law that would allow people to wear shorts to work.
Dayton agreed to a tongue-in-cheek interview with "The Dude" when he visited Children's Hospital on Valentine's Day. The broadcast was created for Children's internal TV station that plays in the kid's rooms at the hospital.
The interviewer hosts the Kid's Clubhouse TV show for Children's Hospitals. He wore a t-shirt that said "Proud to be Awesome" for his interview with Dayton.
"The Dude", who is played by improv actor Eriq Nelson, relies on an interviewing style that closely mirrors Wayne and Garth from Saturday Night Live's Wayne's World fame. He asked mostly basic and humorous questions like "Are you a night owl or an early bird?" (Dayton's response: night owl) and "What would you say to the cat people of Minnesota?" (Dayton's immediate response: "Meow")
Dayton played along with the interview - suggesting at one point that he was ready to be "grilled like a hamburger." He also had a pretty quick response when asked to list his favorite Selena Gomez song.
An official with Children's Hospital and Clinics says the internal TV show aims to improve the care of the patients at Children's Hospital. The hospital says a growing body of research shows that integrating the arts into health care helps improve overall patient outcomes.
You can watch Dayton's interview here:
The lowest income Minnesotans paid a higher percentage of their incomes in state and local taxes than did the wealthiest Minnesotans, according to the Minnesota Department of Revenue's newly released Tax Incidence Study.
In 2010 Minnesotans with incomes of $31,810 and below paid 14.2 percent of their income to cover state and local taxes while Minnesotans with incomes of $824,186 and higher paid 10.2 percent of their income for state and local taxes, the study said.
The projected 2015 tax burden for the lowest and highest income categories came in at 12.6 percent and 10.1 percent respectively.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton campaigned in 2010 calling for higher taxes on the wealthy. His budget proposal would increase income taxes on top earners. It also seeks to restructure the state sales tax by lowering the rate but broadening the tax base to include business services such as accounting and legal work.
The study confirms what Dayton administration officials already knew, said Dayton's Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans.
"Lower-and middle-income Minnesotans continue to pay a larger share of their income in state and local taxes than higher-income Minnesotans," said Frans.
Tax collections from electronic pull-tabs that are supposed to pay for the state's share of a new Vikings stadium are coming in far short of projections.
There were supposed to be 900 locations featuring electronic pull-tabs by Feb. 1, but there are actually only 130, according to the new budget forecast released today.
State finance officials say they now estimate each of those sites will generate about $100 dollars per day. That's less than half of what they originally projected.
Overall gambling revenue will fall $46 million short of earlier projections by 2015, according to the forecast.
Gov. Mark Dayton expressed concern about the projections, but he said he expects significant improvement by this time next year.
"I think everybody made their best attempt to do it and get it right and now we've got to figure out how to correct that so we can make up that difference," Dayton said.
Dayton said he sees no need to reopen stadium negotiations, and said there are fallback revenue sources built into the original legislation, including new lottery games and a surtax on stadium suites.
Officials with the charities that operate electronic pull-tabs say they just need more time to get them up and running.
Minnesota is the first state in the nation to offer electronic pull tabs, noted Allen Lund, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota. Lund conceded it's been a "painful process to date," but he predicted an eventual turnaround.
"We're confident that when all the players that want to play-- and there's 10 of them that are now on the sidelines waiting to get approved--the charities will come through and we will show you what we can do," Lund said. "It's far too early in the process to be assigning blame or coming up with plan B's."(0 Comments)
State finance officials say Minnesota's projected budget deficit has shrunk to $627 million.
The new February economic forecast from Minnesota Management and Budget shows a $463 million improvement from November, when the projected deficit for 2014 and 2015 was at $1.1 billion.
Better than expected revenues also mean a projected positive balance of $295 million in the current biennium. Under law, $290 million of that balance will go to pay back some of the delayed payments to school districts that were part of previous budget deals. The remaining $5 million in will go into the state's budget reserve. The state will still have $810 million in school shifts to pay back.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton crafted his two-year tax and spending proposal based on the earlier forecast. He can now make adjustments to reflect the new numbers. House and Senate leaders will also use the latest forecast to set their budget targets. A final budget is expected by mid-May.
Another effort is underway to organize state-subsidized child care providers.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 is holding a State Capitol news conference Monday to announce the Child Care Collective Bargaining Act. An advisory from the union said legislation will be introduced that day to authorize child care providers to collectively bargain with the State of Minnesota.
Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, and Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, will attend along with child care providers.
A previous attempt to organize the same group of in-home providers failed last year when a Ramsey County judge blocked a unionization vote in response to a lawsuit from union opponents. The judge ruled that Gov. Mark Dayton had exceeded his authority when he scheduled the vote with an executive order.
Separate legislation was introduced this week to allow a unionization vote among subsidized personal care assistants who provide self-directed home health care to the elderly and disabled. The Service Employees International Union is leading that effort.
A southeastern Minnesota lawmaker is proposing a broad bill that regulates the frac sand industry in Minnesota. Sen. Matt Schmit, DFL-Red Wing, wants to study the impact of silica sand mining on water resources, air and water quality and roads and bridges.
Schmit says his bill would allow local governments to extend their moratoriums on frac sand mining for two years. He says that should give the state enough time to study the impact of the industry.
"This GEIS is going to set that study in motion and it will come back with some specific recommendations and set the stage for standards," he said.
Schmit's bill would also create a silica sand production tax to help pay for damage caused by the mining. Schmit disagrees with industry officials who say statewide standards aren't needed. He says the industry explosion in western Wisconsin prompted him to take action.
"When the price of silica sand increases and the demand for it increases and the demand for it increases, we're going to see a lot of permit requests coming into southern Minnesota," Schmit said. "I think it's fine. We want to strike a right balance between leveraging a resource that we have but we want to make sure we do it right and I'm not sure western Wisconsin has done it right."
Local officials have been urging state lawmakers to come up with standards to regulate frac sand mining. The industry has emerged in recent years to help the oil and gas industry use silica sand to help free oil and gas reserves using the hydraulic fracturing process or fracking.
Industry officials say they don't think state regulations are necessary.
Here's a copy of the bill. The bill is scheduled to get a hearing on Tuesday.
Bobby King, state policy organizer for the Land Stewardship Project, said the bill doesn't include the state moratorium on frac sand mining the group had wanted. But he said he expects a state moratorium will be added to the bill as an amendment during Tuesday's hearing.
"We can establish state standards and do an in-depth study to figure out how harmful the industry is but if we haven't pressed the pause button, they're going to run in and develop," King said.
MPR's Elizabeth Dunbar contributed to this report.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue released a study today saying Gov. Dayton's tax plan would be fairer to low and middle income Minnesotans than the current system.
"The bottom line is that the fourth tier tax increase and the homeowner property tax rebates are both very progressive and large enough to more than offset the impact of the more regressive portions of the full proposal," the department said in the bulletin.
The department's findings are based on the so-called SUITS Index that measures for progressivity.
Dayton's tax plan raises income taxed on top earners, increases the cigarette tax and changes the sales tax. His sales tax plan would reduce the overall rate from 6.875 percent to 5.5 percent but would expand the tax to business-to-business services, consumer services and clothing items that cost more than $100. Dayton also wants to provide a $500 tax rebate to each homeowner in the state.
Dayton's plan has been criticized by business groups who say it's unfair. Some contend his plan to tax clothing and consumer services would make lower and middle income Minnesotans pay more.
Republicans tried to highlight those concerns during a brief debate on Senate floor today. They forced a vote on a routine procedural move on Dayton's tax plan and worked to link Democratic votes for the procedural move as an endorsement of the plan.
"Many of us have said that we do not support this," Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said. "So this is our opportunity to say no. We don't want this bill in the Senate Tax Committee."
Democrats complained that the Republican effort would limit debate on Dayton's plan.
"I would urge that we do not exclude the public from this debate," Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook said. "The committee hearing process is the opportunity for the public to weigh in on these important issues, so I would ask that this bill has the opportunity to go to committee."
Democrats were successful in sending the bill to the Taxes Committee. Skoe says he intends to hold hearings on Dayton's plan soon.
The discussion over the state budget is likely to change next week. That's because state finance officials are scheduled to release the next budget forecast. Gov. Dayton and lawmakers will use those figures to make final decisions on the next two-year budget.
Governor Dayton signed a bill today that ratifies the state's contracts with its employees.
The contracts give a two percent across-the-board pay increase to 35,000 state workers. The raise would be retroactive to the beginning of the year.
The state's largest public employee unions have been lobbying the Legislature to ratify the contracts quickly, because there are only a few months remaining before a new contract starts on July first.
Dayton and Democrats in control of the Legislature note that it's the first raise for state workers in three and a half years.
Republican leaders argue the workers shouldn't get a raise when the economy is still slow and many private sector workers aren't getting pay increases.
A bill that would adjust state tax law to match the federal tax changes Congress made at the end of 2012 is headed to Governor Dayton.
The Minnesota House passed the so-called tax conformity measure today 109-19.
The bill continues tax deductions for teacher expense, mortgage insurance premiums and college tuition. Several Republicans complained that the bill also removed a requirement that citizens sit on the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Board.
Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth says she's disappointed the House is accepting Senate language that would remove citizen input on a board with a $30 million annual budget.
"The good old boy's club is back," Anderson said. "We are going to see the Iron Range and their delegation, since Senator Bakk is the Majority Leader in the Senate, do this time and time again to us."
Several members of the Iron Range delegation say there will still be accountability because elected officials will continue to sit on the board.
Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, says the citizens on the board were political appointees who answered to no one.
"I think it's bad public policy to have members who have no accountability through the electoral voters to the voters when they're making decisions on how we spend local property tax dollars," Melin said. "I also think it's bad public policy have our non-elected members be appointed based on their political affiliation."
The House and Senate worked quickly to pass the bill to clear the way for tax filing season.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Dayton says Dayton is expected to sign the bill.
In a state that's long loved to brag about the money it spends on schools, it was a bit of a surprise to hear Gov. Mark Dayton say higher education funding had fallen to levels not seen since 1980-81.
He's right. And yet data claims always come with caveats. This one's no exception.
Here are Dayton's remarks from his 2013 State of the State:
...In real dollars, our state spends $569 million less on higher education in the current biennium, than we did 16 years ago.We asked the state budget office for the data. Here are the numbers they gave us, starting with the 1980-1981 biennium.
I asked the MMB [state budget office] staff to look back even further, into the paper records. They found that the last time we actually spent less to support higher education, in real dollars, than we are in FY12-13 ... was in FY80-81.
I'll say it again. In every biennium since FY80-81, real state spending for all of postsecondary education has been higher than it is today.
So the data show Dayton's correct.
And yet, a casual reader might conclude, incorrectly, that it's been a grim stretch for post secondary spending. The reality is the 80-81 biennium and the current biennium are outliers in an era that saw huge increases in higher education spending.
Here's the same chart as above, but with lines for the average and median spending during those years. The state in that period averaged nearly $3.2 billion a year in inflation adjusted spending -- significantly higher than '80-'81 and '12-'13, which turn out to be the two lowest spending cycles in that span.
The data also don't count the money the Legislature spends on capital bonding projects for buildings and other assets on the state's public college campuses. The budget office had data -- not inflation adjusted -- back to 1990 on capital spending projects at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities systems. Here's a look.
To policy experts, these are separate buckets of money. Outside the Capitol, I'd guess that most Minnesotans would count higher ed bonding projects as higher ed spending.
Again, Dayton was correct in his speech. But a deeper look at the data show the past couple decades of higher ed spending is better than it sounds.
As always, if anyone has different or better data on the topic, please send it on and we'll talk through it in future posts.(0 Comments)
A group of lawmakers is proposing a bill that would allow cities to use cameras to catch drivers who run red lights. The bill, which was introduced yesterday in the House and Senate, would also allow law enforcement personnel to use cameras to catch people who are speeding.
In 2007 the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that red light cameras are unconstitutional because the tickets were linked to a driver's license, not to the motorist who committed the violation. Minneapolis city officials were forced to refund millions of dollars after the court ruled the law unconstitutional.
Supporters of the new bill say they think technology will address those concerns because the cameras will capture pictures of both the license plate and the motorist.
"It's very controversial, but we just don't want to give up on it," said Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, the chief author of the bill in the House.
Hausman said she's pushing the legislation because she wants to reduce accidents at dangerous intersections. She said city officials in Minneapolis and St. Paul have not taken a position on the bill but said St. Cloud officials have expressed interest.
"It is a matter with people thinking they can get away with breaking the law," Hausman said. "The problem is people die when that happens. The stakes are high enough for me."
The stakes are also high for opponents of the legislation.
"This technology is wrong. You need to have somebody hand somebody a ticket," said Chuck Samuelson, executive director of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Samuelson said he has major questions about the proposed legislation. In particular, how would governments enforce the law if the owner of a vehicle isn't the person in the photograph?
Samuelson said the ACLU intends to lobby against the legislation and is prepared to go further if it's enacted into law.
"We would oppose this by any means necessary, but we would rather not undergo the cost of a lawsuit and have everyone else, government wise, pay for the costs of a lawsuit. We think this should just go away," he said.
Supporters of the bill say they think they'll be able to address the constitutional issues involving the bill as it goes through the committee process. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation Policy Committee.
Some state lawmakers from both parties say they hope to raise the limit on the amount of money a candidate for state office can raise and spend.
Gov. Dayton earlier this month urged lawmakers to raise the contribution limit. He made the comments on the day his campaign finance report showed him with $94,000 in the bank at the end of 2012.
He isn't alone.
The chairs of the House and Senate Election Committees both say they want to increase the limits. The top Republican on the House Elections Committee also says he's likely to back the plan as well.
The reason is simple. Political candidates feel like they're being dwarfed by spending from outside interest groups. Candidates for statewide office can raise $500 in the years they're not on the ballot. They can raise $2,000 in election years. Legislative candidates can raise $100 in non-election years and $500 in the years that they're on the ballot.
Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park, said those limits are too low.
"We should increase both the contribution and the spending limits so that we can better equalize the size of megaphones and those who are trying to help or hurt them in elections," Simon said. "The outside interests have a huge megaphone now as compared to the actual candidates running for office."
Simon, who chairs the House Elections Committee, noted that outside interest groups can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on any race.
He is holding a hearing today on a proposal by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board that calls for hiking the contribution and spending limits. Update: The committee held a hearing on a different Campaign Finance Board proposal.
Rep. Tim Sanders, R-Blaine, the top Republican on the House Elections Committee, also says it's likely he'll support some sort of increase. Sanders said there hasn't been an agreement between committee members as to what the new limits should be. He said, however, that increasing the limits will make races more competitive.
"It always struck me as incumbent protection," Sanders said, referring to the low contribution limits.
Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, also wants to hike the limits. Sieben, who chairs the Senate Elections Committee, said she's heard from a bipartisan group of lawmakers who expressed concern about the level of outside spending on legislative races in 2012. GOP Senate Minority Leader David Hann said his caucus hasn't discussed the idea but said he thinks there is support for it.
A proposal to increase political contributions will likely be included in a broader elections bill. Gov. Dayton has said he won't support any elections bill unless it has broad, bipartisan support.(1 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton gave the strongest indication yet that he intends to help the Mayo Clinic with its expansion plan in Rochester. He made the comments during a speech to an audience of Democrats in Oakdale today.
"How we get there? We have to negotiate," Dayton said. "But do we need to get there? I'm absolutely certain we do."
The Mayo Clinic is lobbying the Legislature for $585 million in taxpayer money to make improvements to Rochester. The Clinic says it needs the public improvements to support its plan to expand in the southeastern Minnesota community. Mayo Clinic officials have pledged to spend more than $3 billion over the next 20 years to expand their Rochester campus. They say they expect more than $2 billion to follow in private investments but say they need the public's help in building things such as roads, parks, transit and other improvements to support the expansion.
The Clinic's plan to finance those improvements would rely on a portion of future money raised from income, sales and corporate tax revenues in Rochester. The legislation would create an economic development authority to determine exactly how the funds are spent.
Several lawmakers expressed concern that the proposal is unprecedented and could lead to many other communities calling for a portion of their tax base be directed to infrastructure improvements.
Dayton said he isn't sure what the final plan will look like, but he said it's important that Mayo's vision of a Destination Medical Center be realized.
"I certainly don't want to see it happen in Arizona or Florida," Dayton said of Mayo's expansion.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says he supports the Mayo Clinic plan in concept but would like to see the city of Rochester and Olmsted County contribute more than $20 million to the plan. DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen says he isn't sure whether there's support for Mayo's plan but said something is likely to get done this year.
The House Jobs and Economic Development Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the plan on Feb. 19.(1 Comments)
On Monday, I took a look at the geography of Minnesota's "fourth bracketeers," the 2 percent of Minnesota's top earners who would be pushed to a higher, fourth tax bracket under Gov. Mark Dayton's tax and budget proposals. Those affected would would have paid an average $7,240 more in taxes in fiscal 2013.
Beyond geography, what else do we know about the folks -- people with taxable income above $250,000 for those married and filing jointly, $200,000 for head of household and $150,000 for a single taxpayer -- who would end up in the fourth bracket?
For obvious reasons, the Revenue Department won't give out data that might identify specific filers. But along with the geography, the department did provide information offering a glimpse, at least, of who will bear some of the burden of the fourth bracket should it become law.
Married couples. Of the 53,600 Minnesota resident filers who would pay more tax under the proposal, 40,000, about 80 percent, would be married filers.
Singles would pay $61 million of the $388 million in tax paid by resident filers. (Another $44 million would come from 14,600 part-time residents.)
Business owners One of the arguments against the fourth bracket is that many of the folks who'd be snagged are small businesspeople who'll be hit by a big new tax bill that will compel them to pull back on their businesses and cut back jobs or expansion plans.
Turns out that many people with business income would feel something, although it's not clear how much they'd be nicked.
While Dayton has argued that only the top 2 percent of Minnesotans would pay more under his plan, the Revenue Department estimates that, "6 percent of all of the Minnesota residents who report at least one dollar of positive income from a partnership, S-corp, or sole proprietor would have income high enough to pay tax on any of their income at the fourth tier rate."
Those numbers, though, come with a major caveat: Only 12,700 reported that at least 20 percent of their income was business income of these types.
That works out to around one half of one percent of the 2,439,867 full time Minnesota tax returns filed in 2010.
If anyone has any other numbers to examine on this, send them to me and we'll keep the conversation going. Otherwise, it doesn't look like the fourth bracket would have a broad impact on the state's small business owners.
Where does the Fourth Bracket live? Mouse over the dots on the map to see county-by-county counts.
Republican Congressman Erik Paulsen said today he is not ruling out a run for higher office in 2014.
Paulsen has been mentioned as a possible challenger to DFL Senator Al Franken. In the past month, he has told several people that he's not interested in running for Senate - only to have his aides quickly retract those statements.
After a news conference in St. Paul, Paulsen said everything is on the table, including a run for Senate or a run for governor.
"I think we're going to have a lot of candidates that come forward sometime down the road, but I don't think a lot of people are giving much thought at all right now," Paulsen said. "I'm solely focused on my work."
Paulsen also said he has had no conversations with the National Republican Senatorial Committee about challenging Franken.
So far no Republicans have said that they intend to challenge Franken or DFL Governor Mark Dayton.
Both Dayton and Franken say they intend to run for re-election.
A bill that would help the Mayo Clinic and Rochester use $585 million in taxpayer money to develop downtown Rochester has been introduced at the Legislature.
The bill outlines how the Mayo Clinic and the city of Rochester intend to redevelop the city. The money would be spent over the next thirty years on things like roads, bridges, parking lots and transit. The bill also says the money could be used to support the development of parks, shopping centers, housing and broadcasting and multimedia facilities.
Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, is the chief author of the House bill. She says the public subsidy is needed to support Mayo's private spending.
"It's going to be kind of fast and furious in the next 15 to 20 years and our current levels of funding are not going to be able to keep up with that growth," Norton said.
Several lawmakers expressed concern about the plan because it would siphon tax money from the state's general fund to help fund economic development in Rochester.
The House bill has been referred to the House Jobs and Economic Development Committee. Committee Chair Tim Mahoney says he intends to hear the bill in the next two weeks.(1 Comments)
The Minnesota Senate today approved contracts that give 35,000 state employees a 2 percent pay hike. The new contracts cover seven different bargaining units including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5, and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.
Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, says it's time for state employees to get a raise.
"They deserve decent salaries and they do deserve an increase in their salaries and they haven't had that for three and a half years," Goodwin said. "I'm tired of this public employee bashing. I'm tired of this teacher bashing. These are the folks who do the work, the tough work, in Minnesota."
The Senate voted 40-25 in favor of ratifying the contracts.
Republicans were unsuccessful in efforts to require state employees to pay something for their health insurance coverage.
GOP Senate Minority Leader David Hann says he thinks the contracts are too costly for taxpayers.
"This is an example where we're going to spend a lot of money, we're going to pass a contract that's going to pay a lot more," Hann said. "it's an example of a larger theme that we're seeing emerge here that we're being asked to pay more and expect less and that's what this contract represents."
The House is expected to ratify the contracts next week.
The contracts will be retroactive to January 1st and expire on June 30th.
Gov. Dayton is negotiating with the state's labor unions for the next round of contracts.(1 Comments)
The Minnesota Senate quickly confirmed five of Gov. Dayton's political appointees today.
Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle, Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson, Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans and Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius all received the Senate's blessing to continue in their jobs.
The debate over the confirmations took less than two hours. Four of the five appointees were confirmed by voice vote. Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius' confirmation was approved 45-20. Republicans criticized Cassellius' work on redesigning the state's social studies standards.
Republicans also raised questions about Zelle.
Several Republicans wondered how Zelle, who took office three weeks ago, would avoid a potential conflict of interest, since he is the owner of Jefferson Bus Lines. Some said they support Zelle's confirmation but worried that MnDOT oversees and distributes federal grants for intercity bus lines.
"Clearly, as the commissioner of the Department of Transportation, he will have the ultimate signoff and ultimate responsibility for distributing these grants, and it very well may be to the company that he is majority owner of," Sen. John Pederson, R-St. Cloud, said.
Jefferson Bus Lines has received such grants in the past.
DFL lawmakers say they've been assured that Zelle will separate himself from decisions regarding the federal grants.
"There's not a conflict of interest until there's a conflict of interest," said Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul. "Commissioner Zelle has made it very clear that he's going to remove himself from decisions regarding Jefferson Lines."
We have asked for documents that outline how Zelle intends to avoid making decisions regarding Jefferson Lines. We'll post the info once it becomes available.
Update: Zelle filed a conflict of interest statement that says he will recuse himself from any transportation decisions or contracts involving his company.0 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton's plan to generate $1.1 billion in new taxes from the state's highest earners the next two years is controversial. Politically, though, it ought to be a pretty easy vote for most of the state's lawmakers.
More than 70 percent of those who would pay the higher income tax are concentrated in the Twin Cities metropolitan area -- overwhelmingly in Hennepin County where most state lawmakers are, like the governor, DFLers.
The map below shows just how concentrated. Mouse over the dots and you'll get the information for that county.
We took county by county data from the governor's proposal and mapped it. These are the returns of people with taxable income above $250,000 for those married and filing jointly, $200,000 for head of household and $150,000 for a single taxpayer.
Six counties -- Cook, Kanabec, Lake of the Woods, Lincoln, Mahnomen and Red Lake -- counted 20 or fewer potential fourth bracketeers. The Revenue Department would not provide an exact count for those counties, so they don't show up on the map.
The data aren't perfect. They show 2010 figures with 41,612 returns from full-year taxpaying residents. Current estimates put the total number of prospective fourth bracket returns at 53,600, thanks mainly to growth in incomes between 2010 and 2013.
Revenue Department researchers, though, say the distribution in the 2010 county data is proportional to the geography of those who would be affected now.
Looking at the map, you'd be hard pressed to find any politician who'd pay much of a political price for supporting the fourth bracket.
While many Republicans might oppose the new tax tier for philosophical reason, they wouldn't suffer much backlash from the fourth bracket voting block.
Poll numbers back that up. A recent KSTP / SurveyUSA poll found 65 percent of Minnesotans back Dayton's proposal for more taxes on the top 2 percent; 30 percent oppose it.
Here's one more way to look at the lopsided spread. In the map below, the reds denote counties with fewer than 300 tax returns that would fall in the new bracket. Yellow is for counties with 300 to 1,000 potentially affected while the green means more than 1,000 fourth bracketeers.
Again, if you're a state lawmaker, you might have serious philosophical and economic concerns about seeking another $1 billion every two years from the state's top 2 percent. Geographically, though, most lawmakers shouldn't have to think twice.
In the past couple weeks, I've written two posts detailing how Minnesota's economy has outperformed Wisconsin -- from the Great Recession through today.
The last post, I titled: "Hey Wisconsin, what happened?"
Today, though, Wisconsin Rep. Erik Severon, R-Osceola, sent out an "open letter" to Minnesota businesses encouraging them to relocate to Wisconsin in response to Gov. Dayton's tax and budget proposals.
In the last two years Wisconsin has turned around, becoming a haven for private sector job growth. It was done by controlling government spending and holding the line on taxes. I urge you to consider moving your business to a state that values job creators and won't impose arbitrary taxes that hinder economic expansion.I'll leave the budget and tax debate to others. The data, however, show that through the recession and even in the past two years, Wisconsin falls short of Minnesota and the country when it comes to job growth and other key economic indicators.
Here's a chart showing nonfarm employment in the U.S., Minnesota and Wisconsin, plotted on a common index. It shows Wisconsin's job growth lagging the U.S. and Minnesota, including during the past two years.
My point: No matter what you think of the budget and tax policies of the two states, the bedrock economic data show Minnesota has outperformed Wisconsin since 2000 and has accelerated its recovery the past two years while Wisconsin's recovery has stumbled.
It'd be great to get into a larger discussion about the two economies. If anyone has data showing Wisconsin's economic superiority, send it to me and we'll put it out for the larger discussion.
Until then, let's put aside the notion that Wisconsin is eating Minnesota's economic lunch.
Yes, it's possible Gov. Dayton's tax and budget policies will send businesses running away. But the past two years of Wisconsin tax and budget policies haven't produced any economic Renaissance.
UPDATE: The data above include government and non-government jobs. So do the trends hold if we're only talking private sector? Yes.
The numbers show Wisconsin down 55,421 private sector jobs from Dec '07 to June '12 (preliminary data), while Minnesota is down 7,056. From December 2010 (Just before political administrations changed) to June 2012, Wisconsin grew by 86,492 jobs while Minnesota rose by 117,802 jobs.
Again, the 2012 data is preliminary. But if you break out just private sector job growth, Minnesota is still stronger than Wisconsin. You find all the data here.(4 Comments)
A new group has been created to encourage former state Rep. Tom Emmer to run for governor in 2014. Emmer lost his bid for governor to DFLer Mark Dayton in 2010. He's now working as a talk radio host.
The group's campaign paperwork lists a website, DraftEmmer2014, but it's currently inactive.
The group is being run by former state Rep. Doug Wardlow and Tom Coulter. Wardlow served one term in the Minnesota House. He lost his bid for reelection in November to DFLer Laurie Halverson. Coulter served as Emmer's body man during the 2010 campaign.
Emmer could not be reached for comment to see whether he's interested in making another run for governor.
Update: Emmer tells MPR News that he has no current plans to run for office in 2014.
"As far as my "interest in ever running again," I am proud that many people still believe in the message and I'm honored that they believe I am the best person to carry it forward," Emmer wrote in an e-mail. "As I've said many times before, I will never close and lock the door to a future calling. However, I am not currently planning to run for any office in 2014."
Emmer added that he enjoys his job as a radio host on KTLK-AM
Emmer isn't the only Republican who is being encouraged to run. A group has also been formed to encourage GOP Senate Minority Leader David Hann to run.
No Republicans have filed paperwork to run for governor in 2014.
Gov. Dayton says he intends to run for reelection.
Gov. Dayton said today that he wants to lift the campaign contribution limits for candidates for statewide office.
Dayton was asked today about his recent fundraising report that showed him having $96,000 in the bank at the end of December. That figure is lower than the amount former Gov. Tim Pawlenty had raised at the same time in 2004.
Dayton said he'd like to see legislation passed that allows politicians to raise more money from individual donors. Candidates for governor are allowed to raise $500 per person in years when they are not on the ballot.
"It's almost prohibitive in terms of the kind of fundraising necessary for a modern era campaign," Dayton said.
Dayton said he spoke with Republicans about possibly lifting the limits for all constitutional and legislative offices. Dayton said it's unlikely that he'll ramp up his fundraising until the legislative session ends in May.
"After that it's going to have to be a priority because I intend to run again," Dayton said.
Dayton spent $3.9 million of his own money to help him win his first term in 2010. He said he's not certain whether he'll self-finance his campaign again.
"I really have not thought much about the whole enterprise at this point except that I'm going to do everything possibly legally and ethically to win," Dayton said.
No Republicans have filed paperwork to challenge Dayton. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has said he's interested in running for governor. Other possible candidates include Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Rep. Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.
Gov. Mark Dayton will lead a group of Minnesota businesses on a trade mission to Germany, Sweden and Norway June 12-21, his office said today.
The group will meet with business leaders and government officials in Berlin, Dusseldorf, Oslo and Stockholm.
From the governor's office:
The goal of the trade mission is to increase state exports, attract foreign direct investment opportunities, and connect with potential customers and longstanding partners in Europe and Scandinavia.The three countries are "vital trade partners that account for nearly $1 billion in annual exports from Minnesota," the governor's office said. (0 Comments)
Minnesota exports are a growing part of the state's economic development strategy, reaching a record $20.3 billion in 2011. Minnesota exports have set quarterly records for eight straight quarters and are expected to post another annual record when final figures are tabulated for 2012.
A week after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton unveiled his budget proposal, Republicans legislators were turning up the heat on his plan to provide $500 property tax rebates to all homeowners.
One lawmaker suggested during a Senate tax committee hearing today that the proposal might be more about Dayton's 2014 re-election campaign than it is about making good tax policy. Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, told Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans that she didn't understand why the governor would raise other taxes in order to buy down property taxes.
"I can't imagine why we would take sales tax dollars out of the pockets of middle income and poor Minnesotans just to write a check to property owners in the state of Minnesota," Ortman said. "I don't know why we would do that unless it looked like --forgive me for being cynical -- a re-election plan."
Commissioner Frans defended the proposal, saying it was a response to Minnesotans' complaints that property taxes are too high.
Later in the day, Gov. Dayton was also defending his plan. He also accused Republicans of not understanding the issue.
"If someone has got a better idea or another step forward, let's do that," Dayton said. "But if people just want to sit back and carp, and deny people a $500 property tax rebate, they're sure not in touch with the people I hear from every day and talk to every day."
DFL leaders in the House and Senate also want to provide property tax relief this session, but at least for now they have not embraced the governor's proposal.(0 Comments)
A two percent across-the-board pay hike for state employees is one step closer to reality. The joint Subcommittee on Employee Relations is recommending the Legislature approve state contracts for thousands of state employees. The plan would give a two percent raise to seven separate groups of workers, including AFSCME Council 5, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, middle managers and corrections officers.
Supporters of the plan, including Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, defend the pay hikes. They say employees haven't gotten a raise in three and a half years.
"This is a modest increase of two percent," Metzen said. "These people deserve this modest increase."
The committee voted six to three in favor of the contracts. All of the Democrats on the committee voted for the contracts. All of the Republicans present voted against it. Democrats, who won control of the Legislature in November, are expected to ratify the contracts this year.
That's a dramatic difference from five months ago when Republicans controlled the committee and voted to recommend the Legislature reject the contracts.
Republicans on the committee complained that the pay hikes were too large and too broad especially since the state if facing a $1.1 billion projected budget deficit.
"We want increases but the way to get the pay increases for the public employees is to get the state back on sound fiscal ground and make sure these economies are solid before we start committing to multiple billions of dollars over the next many years with these contracts" Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said.
The employee compensation package has several more committee stops before the full Legislature approves them. The wage increase covers the current two-year budget cycle and would be retroactive to January 2nd of this year.
The chair of the House Public Safety Finance Committee says he intends to hold three days of hearings next week on gun legislation.
Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, says the hearings will focus on a variety of gun related issues including universal background checks, restrictions on high capacity ammunition magazine, whether assault-style weapons should be banned, and whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in school. He says he doesn't intend to move the bill out of committee next week but said his goal is to put together a broad gun control bill in the coming months.
"I'm not naïve about this place and I realize that there is a lot of pressure from both sides of the issue. I want to get something passed this legislature. I think we will look at the most common sense initiatives that are being proposed and go forward," said Paymar.
One bill that was introduced this week would allow people with mental health conditions to voluntarily put themselves on a list of people who can't buy guns or receive a permit to carry a handgun.
"The idea is that if you're getting treatment and you're healthy, you may want to prevent yourself from a time when you're not healthy," said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.
Winkler said his bill would also allow individuals or their family members to voluntarily submit their weapons to the local police department.
Gun control legislation has received new attention in light of mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado, but there's no certainty that any gun restrictions will become law.(0 Comments)
The House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing this morning on Gov. Dayton's budget plan.
The measure relies on an income tax hike on top earners, an expansion of the sales tax to business and consumer services and a cigarette tax to erase a $1.1 billion projected budget deficit and spend more money on education. Dayton's plan would also lower the overall sales tax rate and cut property taxes.
Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter told the House Ways and Means Committee that the governor had reservations about raising the cigarette tax but was convinced by public health officials that it would lower overall health care costs. That prompted Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, to suggest raising the tax on alcohol as well because it adds costs to the state's criminal justice system.
"I know we're talking about the fact that taxes on cigarettes and liquor are regressive taxes in terms of consumption profiles but I think the way they look at them is that they become an even more progressive effect on health issues if they end up changing the behavior at those levels," Kahn said.
Schowalter said considered a lot of tax ideas but focused on a tax plan that they believe would be fairest for all Minnesotans.
Republicans were quick to criticize the lack of spending cuts in Dayton's budget.
Rep. Dennis McNamara, R-Hastings, said he was concerned that a lot of the items Dayton identified as spending cuts in his budget plan aren't really cuts at all.
"I hope you will tell us how much is real, true reallocation and cuts and how much is a paper shuffle," McNamara said. "I hope the whole budget isn't just what I've seen in the DNR. I hope there is some real truth in it because that's extremely misleading."
Schowalter said the $225 million in spending cuts are a combination of reallocation of existing funds, cuts and money gained from a settlement with HMOs. Dayton is also proposing $2 billion in tax increases to erase a projected $1.1 billion deficit and spend more money on education and job creation.
Dayton's budget plan is expected to receive additional scrutiny tomorrow when the chairs of the Senate and House Taxes Committees hold their first hearings on the proposal.
Last Friday, I dug into some economic comparisons between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Data showed Minnesota performed better than Wisconsin during the Great Recession and has greater strength in the recovery.
One reader, though, suggested that the recession and post-recession years were too small a data sample to declare Minnesota the economic winner. So I went back looking for some long term comparisons on the economies of both.
Well, from 1980 to 2000, the two states were neck-and-neck in key economic indicators. But then something happened in 2000. Wisconsin tailed off compared to Minnesota and the rest of the U.S. and has continued to lose ground.
Here's a look at the the coincident index for Minnesota, Wisconsin and the U.S. from 1980 through 2012 (click on the chart for a larger view).
The index, produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, is a good apples-to-apples comparison, combing four indicators (nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate, and inflated-adjusted wages) into a single statistic.
For 20 years, both states saw nearly identical growth in the index -- no matter which political party was in charge.
In those years, Wisconsin was led by two Republican governors (Lee Dreyfus and Tommy Thompson) with a Democrat (Anthony Earl) sandwiched in between. Minnesota was led by two Republicans (Al Quie, Arne Carlson), a DFLer (Rudy Perpich) and Jesse Ventura, Independence Party.
Wisconsin, though, started slow in 2000 and the index shows a downturn in the 2001 recession that had little effect in Minnesota. Wisconsin stumbled in the first few years of that decade while Minnesota took off again.
Here's a chart with the economic index for Minnesota and Wisconsin since 2000:
In that period, Wisconsin had three GOP governors (Thompson, Scott McCallum and Scott Walker) and one Democrat (Jim Doyle). Minnesota had Ventura, the independent, one Republican (Tim Pawlenty) and one Democrat, current governor Mark Dayton.
As I said in the last post, the data don't end the discussion about taxes and spending or the effects of fiscal policy on business decisions.
But looking at the data, I'm wondering: How much does fiscal policy really matter to a state's economy? And what's happened to Wisconsin?1 Comments)
Two years ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker put up those "Open for Business" signs at the state borders Since then, there's been an on-again-off-again argument about which state's economy is doing better.
I made it clear back then that for all the talk about Wisconsin taking Minnesota jobs, the facts showed Minnesota performed better than the Badger State in keeping people employed and adding jobs in the recovery.
The "Open for Business" rivalry re-ignited this week after Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton released his budget and tax proposals. Walker took a jab at the plans:
In '11, IL raised taxes on income by 66% & businesses by 46%. Now MN Gov is proposing a $2 bil tax increase. WI is Open for Business.— Scott Walker (@ScottKWalker) January 24, 2013
So has Wisconsin out muscled Minnesota the past two years on jobs and the economy? No. Basic economic measures continue to show Minnesota outperforming Wisconsin.
Here are data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis on the key economic markers. Click on the charts for a larger view. (MN is Minnesota, WI is Wisconsin)
Here's the Fed's projection for Wisconsin for this year:
Based on the Minneapolis Fed's statistical model, employment in the whole state of Wisconsin is expected to grow by a faster-than-average 1.3 percent, while the unemployment rate should drop to 5.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. Over 4 percent growth in personal income is expected.Here's what it says about Minnesota:
Based on the Minneapolis Fed's statistical model, employment in Minnesota is expected to grow by a solid 2.2 percent, while the unemployment rate is predicted to drop to 4.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. Growth in personal income is expected to exceed 5 percent.
One more: Here's a chart on quarterly employment change, starting just before the Great Recession.
The data don't end the discussion about taxes and spending or the effects of fiscal policy on business decisions.
But if the question is which economy weathered the Great Recession better and has showed greater strength in the recovery, it's the Minnesotans holding the bragging rights.(2 Comments)
The Minnesota Department of Revenue released a list of the items tonight that would be taxed under Gov. Dayton's budget plan. Dayton announced earlier this week that he wanted to expand the sales tax to clothing items above $100 and business and consumer services, but did not give much in the way of specifics. Dayton's proposal also drops the overall sales tax rate by 20 percent.
Since Tuesday, Dayton has been forced to defend his plan to various groups including the Minnesota Newspaper Association (Read the story here).
Dayton's administration released a list of items that would remain exempt from the sales tax, items that would see a reduced tax rate and the list of goods and services that would now be taxed under this plan.
Here's the list of goods and services that would now be taxed under his plan:0 Comments)
Gov. Dayton had some harsh words for his neighbor, Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker. On Wednesday, Walker posted this to Twitter in reaction to Dayton's budget plan.
"In '11, IL raised taxes on income by 66% & businesses by 46%. Now MN Gov is proposing a $2 bil tax increase. WI is Open for Business."
On Thursday, Dayton was asked about Walker's comments after his speech to the Minnesota Newspaper Association. He said Walker didn't have much to brag about.
"Gov. Walker's economy is faring far worse than Minnesota's over the last couple of years," Dayton said. "I would suggest Gov. Walker focus on his problems, and we'll deal with bettering Minnesota."
Dayton insisted that there is no correlation between tax levels and job growth or per capita income. He cited statistics from the Minnesota Taxpayer's Association saying Minnesota has higher job growth than Wisconsin.
The Minnesota Senate has confirmed two of Gov. Dayton's appointments. The Senate approved Jim Schowalter as commissioner of Management and Budget and Larry Pogemiller as director of the state Office of Higher Education.
Dayton appointed Schowalter in January of 2011. Schowalter has worked in the state's finance department for more than a decade. He served under former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Independence Party Gov. Jesse Ventura.
Dayton appointed Pogemiller to his post in October of 2011. Before that Pogemiller was a Minneapolis state senator and Senate Majority Leader between 2007 and 2011. He didn't seek a leadership role in the Senate after Democrats lost control of the Senate in the 2010 election.
Democrats won back the chamber in last year's election and are acting quickly to confirm Dayton's appointments.
Commissioners can serve in their roles unless the Senate rejects their appointments.(0 Comments)
The headlines from Gov. Dayton's budget announcement focused mostly on his tax plan and his increased education spending. But there were several items that didn't make it into yesterday's coverage.
Here are some details:
Dayton plans to expand the federal Medicaid program (Medical Assistance) to more people. Many will be transferred from existing programs but the Department of Human Services predicts 80,000 people who currently don't have health insurance will be enrolled in the state and federal health insurance program.
Dayton is proposing increasing the car rental tax from 6.2 percent to 9.05 percent and dedicating the money to Explore Minnesota. The agency would use $7.5 million per year from the tax for marketing activities aimed at boosting tourism to the state.
A lot of Dayton's education plan has already been covered. He is, however, proposing scrapping a program championed by Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington. It's a scholarship program that gave money to high school students who graduated early.
Dayton wants to expand the state's trade office. He wants to create foreign trade offices in three new markets. A spokesman for DEED said officials haven't determined where the offices would be located. Minnesota currently has one foreign trade office in Shanghai, China.
Dayton wants to lift a requirement that funeral homes have an embalming room. The plan would exempt funeral homes from the requirement if there was an embalming room in a branch location instead.
Dayton wants to study mercury levels and asthma rates for children in the metro area.
His plan would dedicate more money to build housing in areas where job growth is happening but there aren't enough places for workers to live. "Thief River Falls, Roseau, Worthington and Jackson are just a few of the communities where major employers are poised to expand, but a lack of affordable housing for the local workforce is standing in the way," the Dayton Administration said in budget documents.
Dayton is also proposing renter's assistance so children aren't moving as much. He also wants to provide housing assistance for ex-offenders.
Part of the $225 million in savings in Dayton's plan comes from $43 million in HMO contract negotiations.
Dayton is proposing to increase rates to nursing homes, hospitals and other health care providers.
Minnesota grocers would no longer receive a 3 percent fee to process electronic benefit welfare cards.
The Court of Appeals, the Minnesota Supreme Court and District Courts would all see funding increases.
The state's public defenders would also receive more money.
Dayton wants to add more staff to improve service at Driver and Vehicle Services counters.
Dayton is proposing to spend $500,000 a year for improvements to Capitol Security.
He wants more money for the Environmental Quality Board.
Dayton wants paint, carpet and primary battery manufacturers to create product stewardship plans to handle the disposal of their products and reimburse the agency for the new program.
Insurance companies would have to pay $20 more to register their agents with the state of Minnesota.
Dayton also wants to spend $40 million to promote efforts to reduce unhealthy habits like smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.
Dayton wants to create a scratch-off lottery game that would fund veterans services.
He also wants to permanently fund honor guards that perform at funerals for veterans.
Dayton also wants to expand the GI Bill to all veterans. It currently is applied to veterans who served after September 11, 2001.
Dayton is also asking for more money for basic goods and services. He's proposing greater spending for MnDOT for salt, sand and gasoline. He also wants to give the Department of Public Safety more money to pay for increased gasoline costs.
Dayton wants to use state money to match a federal grant to study the impact on birds and bats of wind turbines.
Dayton wants the Department of Human Rights to hire two Enforcement Officers to review and audit all state contracts over $100,000 for compliance with affirmative action plans. They include the Vikings Stadium, the St. Croix Lift Bridge and Central Corridor Light Rail.
Dayton allocates $355,000 to pay attorney's fees from last year's redistricting case. The political parties and attorneys for several citizens are due the funds as a result of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Half way through his term, Gov. Mark Dayton holds solid public approval numbers and new polling suggests he would beat ex-Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman in a race for governor next year.
Fifty-three percent of voters back Dayton's job performance, while 39 percent disapprove, according to survey results released today from the firm Public Policy Polling.
Within those numbers, though, party divisions run deep. Only 14 percent of Republicans approve of the job Dayton is doing.
PPP surveyed 1,065 Minnesota voters and 275 usual Republican primary voters January 18th to 20th -- before Dayton unveiled his dramatic plans to overhaul the state's tax system.
Among Republicans polled, Coleman is the clear favorite to challenge Dayton, with 57 percent saying they'd like him to be their candidate next year. PPP said no one else it offered as a potential challenger got more than 5 percent.
Dayton won a narrow victory in 2010, capturing less than 44 percent of the vote.
The poll, though, found Coleman is not that popular with the general electorate, with 35 percent viewing him favorably and 43 percent offering a negative opinion.
In a head-to-head choice with Coleman, the survey found Dayton a clear winner.
Based on its polling, PPP says, "Dayton's run as governor so far has been a lot more successful than his tenure in the Senate -- he looks like a strong favorite for reelection next year, at least 22 months out."
Click here to read the full results of the survey.
The firm also did recent polling on Sen. Al Franken.
Caveats: PPP is a Democratic-friendly firm that uses automated phone surveys, which are generally considered less accurate than live interviews. However the company's polls had a track record of accuracy in last year's elections.
MPR News reporter Tom Scheck contributed to this report(2 Comments)
Gov. Dayton is scheduled to deliver his budget plan today. We don't know specifics yet, but there has been enough chatter to examine some of the possibilities.
As I reported this morning, the politics of this are tricky for Dayton. Dayton has been focused on increasing spending for schools (and his aides are pushing greater investment on early childhood education).
Dayton's challenge will be to balance his proposed tax hikes with increased spending that he argues would move the state forward. The worry, however, is that higher taxes could also undercut the state's economic recovery.
But that added spending will come on top of erasing a $1.1 billion projected deficit. Republicans will work to portray Dayton and DFLers in control of the Legislature as out of control tax and spenders.
Here are the political risks for some of the possible changes to the tax code:
Income tax on top earners: Dayton made it a key issue during the election. It will likely go up.
Political stakes: He claims it will make Minnesota's tax system fairer. Critics say it will deter business spending. They also claim rich are getting whacked on the federal level.
Expanding the sales tax to clothing: Expanding the sales tax to clothing would put Minnesota more in line with other states.
Political stakes: Minnesotans have become accustomed to not paying a sales tax for clothing. Get ready for claims Dayton broke a promise to only increase taxes on the wealthy.
Lowering the sales tax rate but expanding the base: This is another possibility. It would make Minnesota more competitive with other states. Expanding the sales tax to some services like haircuts and other services would deliver more revenue to the state.
Political stakes: It would be seen as a positive for the business community and could be accepted by a public that would be wary of seeing a tax on clothing. The downside is that lowering the rate is expensive.
Lowering the Corporate Income Tax: It would make Minnesota more competitive with other states (MN's tax rate on corporations doing business in the state is already one of the highest in the country)
Political stakes: He would be throwing a bone to the business community. The downside: Does Apple really need to take home more in profits?
Raising the cigarette tax: Minnesota's tobacco taxes are lower than most surrounding states (except North Dakota)
Political stakes: The public health community has been pushing for an increase with an aim to deter smoking. It would also only hit about a third of the public. The downside is that many blue collar workers smoke - a key DFL constituency. Dayton also criticized plans to increase the tobacco tax during the 2010 campaign for governor and it goes against Dayton's pledge to keep the state's tax system progressive.
Cutting property taxes: Dayton has argued that he wants to lower property taxes. It's a bit difficult to do since property taxes are raised by local governments. He could, however, work to deliver increased aid to cities and counties or create direct tax breaks for homeowners and hope those governments respond by lowering property taxes.
Political risk: The plan would be popular among seniors and others who are worried about property taxes. The downside is that despite increased aid, local governments may continue to push for property tax increases to pay for local services. Higher property values will also result in higher property taxes for homeowners.
Gov. Mark Dayton this morning releases his budget and tax proposals to the 2013 Legislature. Keep it here for the latest.
Gov. Dayton caused a bit of head scratching at the Capitol today when he wrote on his Facebook page that he could delay his budget proposal if he hasn't fully recovered from his back surgery.
"...it goes well, I'll be "back" on a public schedule, starting Tuesday, January 22nd, when I'll present my proposed budget for the next biennium, as required by state law. If not, I'll invoke the obscure clause in the Minnesota Constitution, which allows me a one-time, two-month extension."
The post had Capitol reporters rereading the state constitution trying to find what authority Dayton has to delay his budget plan. Dayton's spokeswoman responded to initial questions about the post with the vague answer of "keep looking." One reporter actually wrote a story saying Dayton could delay the budget plan.
Dayton later posted that he was joking about the delay.
"My previous post was serious about my recovery, and trying to be humorous about delaying my budget proposal. There is no postponement being sought. I just wanted to see if anyone reads this stuff!"
The only specific thing Dayton has said about his budget plan is that he intends to raise income taxes on top earners to erase at least part of the state's $1.1 billion projected budget deficit.
At 6.875 percent, Minnesota has one of the highest sales tax rates of any state in the nation. But it's also one of the few states that exempts clothing from the tax.
So would you be OK with a lower sales tax rate in exchange for letting the state tax clothing purchases over, say, $200? That's one of the key questions lawmakers will face this session as they seek to remake the state's tax structure.
MPR News reporter Mark Zdechlik's story today details efforts by DFL Sen. Ann Rest to tax clothing. He writes, "When Rest proposed taxing clothing sales a few years ago, officials concluded the broader sales tax would bring in enough money to lower the 6.875 percent tax rate by half a percentage point and pay for the tax credits."
Even with a half percentage point drop, Minnesota's sales tax would still be high relative to its neighbors. Mouse over the states to see the sales tax rates. The dark green states, including Minnesota, charge the highest sales tax.
Source: Sales Tax Institute
Among the states that impose a sales tax, eight (Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts) provide some exemption for clothing, according to The Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.
Minnesota's high end clothing retailers are pushing back at the prospect of a clothing sales tax. The Mall of America, where apparel accounts for more than half of all sales, says the current clothing sales tax exemption is one of the main reasons tourists around the world travel to the mall.
While the clothing fight will take center stage in the coming weeks, the larger problem with the sales tax is that consumers are shifting more of their purchases away from goods and toward services, which largely go untaxed.
Gov. Dayton is expected to offer a comprehensive tax reform plan in the coming weeks, but he's acknowledged the challenges of making change. In December he told MPR News it will be a tough sell to expand the sales tax to goods and services that are currently exempt.
"Two-thirds of our economy now is services, and yet we tax very few of those," said Dayton. "Broadening that base sounds good in concept. But it also means you tax things that aren't being taxed now, and nobody is going to like that."
In the end, even if changes are made to the sales tax and what's covered, it won't alone solve the larger problem of taxing goods sold in Minnesota.(8 Comments)
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.
Governor Dayton has scheduled special elections for two open seats in the Minnesota House.
Dayton has called for special elections to take place on February 12 for House seats in the St. Cloud area and the North Mankato/St. Peter area. He also scheduled the party primaries to be held on January 29 if they're needed.
Dayton ordered the special elections on the same day that 199 state lawmakers were sworn in for a new session. Two House members resigned their positions after they won in November but before the Legislative session started. DFL Representative Terry Morrow resigned to take a job with Chicago based Uniform Law Commission. Republican Representative Steve Gottwalt resigned after he took a lobbying job with the Center for Diagnostic Imaging of St. Louis Park.
Candidates can start filing for either legislative seat on January 9th. Filings close on January 15th. Democrats will control the House regardless of the outcome of the special elections.
There have been 17 special elections in the Minnesota Legislature since 2004. DFLers won 13 of those races. GOP won four times.(0 Comments)
The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board voted today to come up with a plan that would tighten the state's disclosure laws for public officials. The board's action comes a day after MPR News reported that one in four lawmakers filed economic disclosure forms that provide little or no information about the income they earn outside the Legislature.
Board member Neil Peterson, a Republican who used to serve in the Minnesota House, said he believes the law needs to be changed so lawmakers and other public officials have to disclose more.
"I filled those out for 20 years and I have often looked at them and said 'What am I doing with this? They aren't saying anything," Peterson told MPR News.
Campaign Finance Board staff will present the board with recommendations at next month's meeting.
Minnesota Campaign Finance Board Executive Director Gary Goldsmith says he intends to present the board with a plan that would require public officials to disclose more.
"We look at our law as it stands and the experience that we and others have had being frustrated with the fact that a lot of income that's being earned at there isn't disclosed and it's primarily related to independent contractor or small corporation income where you list the corporation instead of your clients as the source of your income."
Goldsmith says the board may also consider requiring public officials to update the forms more than once a year if their jobs change.
The Legislature would need to approve the recommendations - something DFL legislative leaders say needs to be done.
MPR News examined all of the economic disclosure forms filed by state lawmakers and found that one in four legislators filed forms that provide little or no information about their outside work.
Another form also stood out.
State Rep.-elect Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River, filed a form that listed himself as unemployed - a rare change from other lawmakers who listed their jobs as "consultants" or "self-employed" even though they didn't have any work besides their jobs as legislators.
Zerwas sits on the Elk River City Council until his resignation is official tomorrow.
A spokesman for Zerwas, who has a background as a crime investigator and finger print examiner in the public and private sectors, said he was not seeking employment in December. He'll start earning his $31,000 annual salary when he's sworn in as a legislator tomorrow.
Governor Dayton announced that he's accepting applications to replace Justice Paul Anderson, who's retiring at the end of May.
Anderson has served on the bench for nearly 20 years. He was appointed by Republican Governor Arne Carlson in 1994. Anderson is reaching the court's mandatory retirement age of 70 in May.
This will be Dayton's second appointment to the Supreme Court. He appointed Wilhelmina Wright to the Supreme Court in August. She joined the court in October.
Dayton has asked the Commission on Judicial Selection to aid in the selection process for the upcoming vacancy. He can pick someone the the commission recommends or appoint someone else.(0 Comments)
Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R-St. Cloud, announced tonight that he's resigning from the Minnesota Legislature. The announcement comes after Gottwalt took a lobbying job with the Center for Diagnostic Imaging of St. Louis Park. Gottwalt had planned to lobby in states other than Minnesota to ensure there was no conflict of interest but he said that the new job would prevent him from fully serving his constituents.
"It's a huge set of changes, and it makes this position one to which I must fully commit as much time and focus as possible," Gottwalt wrote in an e-mail to his colleagues. "It quite simply is more than a full time job, and one that will not allow me the time I need to represent the people of District 14A as their State Representative."
Gottwalt says he'll resign by the end of the month.
Gottwalt was also under fire after MPR News reported that he took a job from an insurance broker who lobbied him to create a voucher system for roughly 5,000 MinnesotaCare recipients. Gottwalt, who chairs the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee, was the chief author of the legislation. He entered a financial arrangement with the owner of a health insurance brokerage firm that lobbied the Legislature to create the Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program which shifted low income Minnesotans enrolled in a state subsidized health insurance program into a voucher system.
Governor Dayton will have to call a special election to replace Gottwalt. Dayton will order that election after he receives Gottwalt's resignation letter.
Gottwalt is the second lawmaker to announce his resignation before the legislative session begins on Tuesday. Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, announced he was leaving the legislature to take a position in Chicago. Morrow says he'll file his resignation letter after he officially finishes his current term.
Democrats currently control both chambers of the Legislature. Neither special election will change control of the Legislature.
The 2013 session begins on Tuesday at noon.
Here's Gottwalt's full e-mail:
At the beginning of December, I announced the great news that I had joined Center for Diagnostic Imaging as Director of State Legislative Policy, in a national role assisting this healthcare company in continuing its leadership in providing high quality, cost-effective diagnostic imaging services. My role at the CDI Quality Institute is to understand and translate the complex state healthcare regulatory environment in more than 25 states in which the company sees patients, and I am proud to be working with a health care company actively seeking solutions at a critical time for healthcare across the country.
As I've settled in at CDI, I see the states are once again the laboratory of democracy, and each is finding its own approach to implementing the new federal healthcare law. It's a huge set of changes, and it makes this position one to which I must fully commit as much time and focus as possible. It quite simply is more than a full time job, and one that will not allow me the time I need to represent the people of District 14A as their State Representative.
That is why I have made the difficult decision to resign my seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives before the end of the month. I thank you, my colleagues, for our years of service together, and my constituents for their confidence in electing me to represent them. I will always appreciate the deep honor and privilege of serving the residents of St. Cloud, Waite Park, St. Augusta and Rockville.
Sincerely in service,
State Rep. Steve Gottwalt
Gov. Dayton's back surgery has forced him to cancel a speaking engagement at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's annual Session Priorities Dinner.
He'll be the first governor in 22 years to not speak at the event. Officials with Dayton's staff and the Minnesota chamber are careful to note that Dayton isn't sending a message by not appearing. His ongoing recovery from back surgery in late December led him to cancel all of his public events for the first two weeks of January.
Dayton's chief of staff, Tina Smith, will be speaking on behalf of the governor at the event, which has become a place for business officials, elected officials and lobbyists to outline their priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
The Chamber Dinner will still feature the four incoming legislative leaders; DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt and GOP Senate Minority Leader David Hann.
The event, which is sold out, will be held on Wednesday night.(0 Comments)
Gov. Dayton is spending one more day at the Mayo Clinic to recover from back surgery. He had initially planned to be released today.
Dayton's spokeswoman, Katharine Tinucci, says Dayton will spend another day in the hospital. She said the decision was made after Dayton consulted with his doctor about his recovery.
Dayton is now scheduled to return to the governor's residence on Tuesday.
Dayton underwent back surgery on his lower spine on Thursday. His spokeswoman says he'll continue his recovery at home once he is released. His public events for the first two weeks of January are being rescheduled.
The Legislature will convene on January 8. Dayton is required to announce his two-year budget plan by January 22.
Gov. Mark Dayton expects to be hospitalized for a few days next week for back surgery.
Dayton is scheduled to undergo back surgery next week. His spokeswoman, Katharine Tinucci, says Dayton is scheduled to receive surgery on his lower back next Thursday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. She says Dayton is expected to be dismissed from the hospital on December 31st and will then work from the governor's residence for two weeks as he recuperates.
She says Dayton does not plan to turn over any duties to Lieutenant Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon during that time.
"Governors have an option of designating their duties to the lieutenant governor," Tinucci said. "He will not be doing that. Previous governors who had surgery have not done that so there's no reason to think that this is a different situation."
The legislative session begins on January 8th, when Dayton is expected to still be recuperating from the surgery. Tinucci says Dayton will continue to work with commissioners and staff to craft a two-year budget proposal to present to the Legislature.
He's required to release a budget plan by January 22nd.
"There is no reason to think that this surgery or this recovery is going to impede his ability to manage the state effectively as governor," Tinucci said.
Dayton's staff is working to reschedule events that he'd already planned over that period.
MPR's Tim Nelson contributed to this report.
The group, Minnesotans United for All Families, is shifting roles from a group that worked to defeat a constitutional amendment to a group that will lobby for the legalization of same-sex marriage. The organization, which successfully defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a man and a woman in Minnesota, will now form to lobby on behalf of legalizing same-sex marriage in Minnesota. The group's spokesman, Jake Loesch, says they will be sending an e-mail to supporters today announcing the change.
"All of this is initial planning and we're just starting to communicate and put all of our plans together." Loesch said. "But the goal of the organization will be to make 2013 the year that we secure the freedom to marry for all couples in Minnesota."
Same-sex marriage is expected to be a hot topic in the Minnesota Legislature this year as advocates push to remove the state's Defense of Marriage Act (which defines marriage as a man and a woman in state law) and allow same-sex couples to marry. Supporters say the vote in November is a signal citizens would support such efforts.
But opponents of same-sex marriage are already lining up to defeat the legislation. John Helmberger, who is the CEO of the Minnesota Family Council and chairs Minnesota for Marriage, sent an e-mail to supporters today saying he doesn't think there's support to pass the amendment.
"First, understand that the defeat of the marriage amendment was not an endorsement of gay marriage," Helmberger wrote. "Far from it. The amendment was defeated by a narrow margin. And, it passed in 75 out of 87 counties across Minnesota. That means that legislators did not receive a mandate from their constituents to redefine marriage."
Gov. Dayton said he would sign legislation that legalized same-sex marriage in Minnesota. DFL legislative leaders, who will take control of the Legislature in January, suggested it would not be a top priority for them. They say they may wait until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the issue next year.(5 Comments)
The new Republican leadership in the Minnesota House wants DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to reject the new social studies standards crafted by the state education department.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, and Assistant Minority Leader Kelby Woodard, R-Belle Plaine, sent a letter to Dayton today urging him to veto the proposed standards. They contend the standards do not reflect "what Minnesotans expect our students to learn and comprehend in the subject areas of history, government and economics."
In their letter, Daudt and Woodard complained that the standards de-emphasize the contributions of the United States and its economic and political ideals.
"Throughout the entire set of civic and history standards there is virtually no mention of the values of American patriotism," they wrote.
The GOP leaders also noted that there are no mentions of Osama Bin Laden, the war on terrorism or the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Department of Education held a public hearing today in Roseville on the proposed standards, which would serve as the classroom guidelines for public schools throughout the state.(1 Comments)
A state lawmaker plans to introduce legislation next session that would allow teachers to carry guns in school.
Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, says he plans to introduce the legislation as a result of the shooting deaths of 26 children, teachers and school administrators at an elementary school in Connecticut. Cornish says arming teachers and staff would be the best option to prevent additional attacks.
"It's something that we have to face that all of the laws in the world sometimes aren't just going to work," Cornish said. "The cop can't be everywhere so the best person to defend yourself is yourself."
Cornish's plan has been pushed by gun rights groups as a result of the tragedy in Connecticut but it's already being dismissed by Governor Dayton.
"I think that would just increase the danger," Dayton told reporters this morning. "To have weapons in classrooms, to me, defies common sense."
Gun control is likely to be a hot topic at the Legislature this year. Some advocates want tougher background checks on those buying guns.(25 Comments)
An advisory committee trying to come up with ways to make Minnesota's State Capitol more secure released some suggestions today.
The report calls for increasing the number of state troopers working at the Capitol from two officers to 12. It also calls for the Commissioner of Public Safety to oversee security decisions regarding the State Capitol complex. The committee did not recommend metal detectors to screen people entering the complex.
The panel of state lawmakers, law enforcement personnel and government building managers has been meeting for several months. Some of the work was done in private so the panel could discuss security issues.
A 2009 report by the Legislative Auditor found that the Capitol has significant security problems. The final report is expected to be adopted at a public meeting of the Advisory Committee in early January.
Here's the draft report:0 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton says he's not sure there's much he can do to regulate guns in Minnesota, but he said he's willing to consider all options. In the aftermath of the school shooting in Connecticut Dayton says he's willing to consider gun-control measures, but he said he isn't sure the efforts would be constitutional.
"I took an oath of office not to uphold the country but to uphold the constitution of the United States as both as a Senator and then as Governor," Dayton said. "And my understanding and my reading of the governor is that it provides a complete permission for any law abiding citizen to possess firearms whichever ones that he or she chooses and the ammunition to go with that."
Dayton dismissed talk of allowing teachers and other school employees to carry guns. He said that would increase the danger to students. He also said his administration is working with schools to ensure that they have plans in place to deal with attacks.(2 Comments)
DFL Sen. Al Franken declined to say today whether he would support tougher gun laws after the school shooting in Connecticut.
Authorities in Newtown, Connecticut said 20 children were killed today along with at least 7 adults, including the gunman. It's the nation's second-deadliest school shooting after the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007. Franken was asked about tougher gun control laws during an afternoon news conference.
"I'm not sure this is the day to start looking at policy regarding this," Franken said. "This is the day for us to have the victims and their families in our hearts, in our prayers and in our thoughts."
The shooting has groups on both sides of the gun control issue speaking out in Minnesota. The group Protect Minnesota plans a Friday evening rally at a park in south Minneapolis. It says its goals are to reduce gun violence by cutting down on illegal access to guns and promoting measures to stop gun injuries and death, especially among children.
Meanwhile, a group called the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance called on school superintendents and principals to immediately authorize qualified staff and faculty to carry guns at schools.
Several politicians issued statements calling for the nation to come together in light of the tragedy. They include DFL Rep. Keith Ellison, Gov. Dayton, GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann and GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen.
DFL Rep. Betty McCollum issued a statement urging President Obama and Congress to take action on gun control.
"The time has come for President Obama, Congress and the American people to come together to act immediately to end the epidemic of gun violence and the proliferation of guns designed to be weapons of mass murder," McCollum said in a statement.
Update: Ellison is scheduled to appear on MSNBC at 7:20pm to discuss the shooting and "how Congress can address gun violence."(2 Comments)
Gov. Dayton today appointed Charlie Zelle to be state transportation commissioner.
Zelle, of Minneapolis, is president and CEO of Jefferson Bus Lines - a company founded in 1919 and is still family-owned and operated. Zelle rescued the company from collapse in the 80s and made it profitable.
"Charlie Zelle's outstanding record of innovation in the private sector will serve Minnesota well, as we build a transportation system, which will serve our needs and support our future growth and prosperity," Dayton said in a written statement. "I know that Mr. Zelle's very successful business career and his strong commitment to public service will make him an outstanding Commissioner of MnDOT at this important time."
Zelle is inheriting a department that gets plenty of attention. He'll be in charge of ensuring the state's roads and bridges are safe and will help set the agenda for future transportation construction.
He'll also have to do it as groups call for increased funding for transportation projects. A task force appointed by Gov. Dayton has called for higher gas taxes, license tab fees and sales taxes to meet the growing transportation needs of the state.
"It is a great honor to join the Dayton Administration in an area that is critically important to all Minnesotans," said Zelle. "MnDOT has a strong reputation for innovation and I look forward to helping lead the agency as it plays an increasingly important role in advancing the state's future prosperity through key investments in infrastructure."
The other finalist Dayton interviewed was acting commissioner Bernie Arseneau, an engineer who's been with MnDOT for 29 years in a variety of positions.
Zelle is well connected to the business community. He currently serves as the chair of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce. He's also a well known donor to DFL candidates.
He and his wife gave $1,750 to Gov. Dayton's campaign for governor in 2010. Zelle also served as chair of R.T. Rybak's gubernatorial committee in 2010. Rybak dropped out of the race for governor after he lost the DFL endorsement. Zelle was also one of the state's first business leaders to speak out against a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
Zelle will start his job on Jan. 15.
He replaces Tom Sorel, who resigned on Dec. 1 to become the CEO of AAA Minneapolis.(0 Comments)
A final audit report shows Minnesota will save roughly $4 million by cutting off about four thousand dependents of state employee who were wrongly receiving state health benefits.
Minnesota Management and Budget says 4,218 dependents of state workers were not eligible to receive health benefits. That's a higher number than the department estimated in August when MPR News first reported the preliminary audit results.
But even though the number of dependents is higher, the expected savings are lower. The report found that the state would save about $4 million for the current calendar year, not the $10 million officials projected when preliminary results were released in August.
The report found no evidence of fraud among state employees. In fact, the biggest reason dependents were declared ineligible was because state employees didn't submit the appropriate paperwork by the audit's deadline. About 1,000 dependents who lost benefits due to the audit were re-enrolled for coverage for next year. State employees still need to prove their dependents' eligibility.
MMB spokesman John Pollard clarified some points in an email tonight.
The $10 million was "a long term savings estimate. The $4 million is an immediate savings we did not expect so we actually saved more than we thought we would."
Pollard adds that MMB can't make a long-term savings estimate at this point.
Also MMB expects 1,000 dependents to return to the plan after open enrollment numbers are compiled.
Here's the full report:3 Comments)
With MPR's Tim Pugmire...
Minnesota's latest economic forecast shows a $1.1 billion deficit in the upcoming two-year budget cycle. State finance officials released the numbers and some context this morning.
The new analysis of state revenue and spending obligations shows the same pending shortfall that was projected last March.
Minnesota Management and Budget officials also say revenue in the current biennium will allow for a $1.3 billion payback of the $2.4 billion owed to schools. But those conditions will not continue into the next cycle.
State officials previously cautioned that this forecast has even more uncertainty than usual due to the "fiscal cliff" scenario that's unfolding in Washington.
MMB will release the full forecast at 11:45, but it seems to indicate that the state's economy is continuing to improve slightly.
DFL Governor Mark Dayton will use the projected numbers to shape a two-year spending proposal that he must unveil by January 22nd. Dayton will hold an afternoon news conference to react to the new forecast.
Governor Dayton will have a busy travel schedule next week.
Dayton is scheduled to attend the Democratic Governor's Association Annual meeting and holiday party in Los Angeles, CA on Monday.
An aide says Dayton is then scheduled to take an overnight flight to Washington D.C. so he can attend a Tuesday meeting with President Obama. Dayton and several other governors who are on the National Governor's Association Executive Committee are scheduled to discuss the fiscal cliff and its impact on states.
Dayton will then travel back to Minnesota . He's scheduled to be briefed by state finance officials on Wednesday morning on the state's budget outlook. Finance officials plan to release the forecast on Wednesday morning. Dayton will use those figures to craft his two-year budget that is due by January 22.
Senate Democrats released their committee structure and the respective chairs of each committee today. After working throughout the day today, DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk released a list of 19 committees, subcommittees and budget divisions.
DFLers in the Minnesota House have yet to outline their committee structure or committee chairs. Several people say DFL House Speaker designate Paul Thissen will likely release his appointments before Thanksgiving.
Here's the list:1 Comments)
DFL Sen. Jeff Hayden of Minneapolis has been selected to serve as Deputy Majority Leader of the Minnesota Senate. DFL Senate Majority Leader-designate Tom Bakk appointed Hayden to be the Deputy Majority Leader. He will serve alongside Bakk and Assistance Majority Leader-designate Katie Sieben of Cottage Grove.
Hayden's appointment comes as Senate Democrats continue to organize for the majority. Democrats reclaimed the majority after winning 39 of the 67 seats in the Minnesota Senate.
Gov. Mark Dayton has told the Minnesota Vikings that he is "greatly distressed" that the team is considering a plan to charge season ticket holders a fee that would help pay the team's share of a new $975 million stadium.
In a harsh letter to owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf, Dayton stressed that the private contribution is the team's responsibility and not the responsibility of season ticket holders.
"I said this new stadium would be a 'People's Stadium,' not a 'Rich People's Stadium,'" Dayton wrote.
Dayton warned that it would better to not build a new stadium than have it betray the trust of the regular Minnesotans who supported the project. He also said he would urge the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority against authorizing the proposed "Stadium Builder's Licenses."
"If necessary, I will go to the Legislature next January and urge the the authorization be rescinded," he added.
A spokesman for the Vikings has not responded yet.
The license option Dayton is now objecting to is part of the stadium bill lawmakers passed and he signed into law back in May. It reads: "The NFL team/private contribution, including stadium builder license proceeds, for stadium costs must be made in cash in the amount of at least $477,000,000."
A later section says: "The authority shall own and retain the exclusive right to sell stadium builder's licenses in the stadium. The authority will retain the NFL team to act as the authority's agent in marketing and selling such licenses."
Here's the official news release reaction from the Vikings:
The Minnesota Vikings greatly appreciate Governor Mark Dayton's support for the new multi-purpose stadium for the Vikings and the State of Minnesota. However, we are disappointed by his recent letter to the team, which does not recognize a key component of the stadium agreement struck by the Vikings, State and Local leaders this past spring.2 Comments)
The stadium bill, and the prior term sheet, that was negotiated with the Vikings over the last two legislative sessions by the Governor's own representatives and legislative leaders, includes provisions that expressly authorize the sale of stadium builder's licenses and include the proceeds of any sale in the project budget. Stadium builder's licenses were vetted by the Legislature, testified to by Vikings and State of Minnesota negotiators, and most importantly, specifically reflected in the stadium legislation that was passed and signed by the Governor.
The Vikings look forward to discussing this issue and moving forward with the agreement that was completed after many long years of effort.
Republicans in the Minnesota House have selected Rep. Kurt Daudt of Crown to lead their caucus. Daudt will serve as the House Minority Leader and will help shape the policy positions of the House GOP caucus and will help recruit candidates.
"I am honored to be elected by my colleagues to lead the House Republican Caucus," Daudt said in a statement. "We have an optimistic group of members who are united in our efforts to rebuild the economy, create jobs and balance the budget. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work."
The group elected Daudt today during a Saturday afternoon caucus meeting. It's the first time the caucus has met since they lost the majority on Election Day. GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers and GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean both opted not to seek the Minority Leader position.
Daudt is serving his second term in the Minnesota House. Daudt also served as the camaign manager for Republican Marty Seifert's campaign for governor in 2010. Seifert lost the party endorsement to Tom Emmer.
Daudt has also served on the Isanti Board of Commissioners for six years.
Democrats in the Minnesota House have elected their leadership team tonight. They elected DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen of Minneapolis to be the Speaker of the House when the Legislative session begins in 2013.
DFLers also elected Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul to be the House Majority Leader over Rep. Paul Marquart of Dilworth.
Murphy worked hard to recruit and elect candidates over the past four years. Murphy, a nurse by training, is an expert on health care and is a strong backer of President Obama's health care plan.
"I look forward to working with Speaker Thissen and legislators from both parties to govern this state in a manner that reflects the wishes of Minnesotans for progress, results and a better future for our state," Murphy said in a statement.
Murphy and Thissen will now have to appoint chairmanships and assign members to specfiic committees. They will also be responsible for setting the DFL agenda when the next legislative session starts in January. They also have the delicate balancing act of ensuring the needs of rural Minnesota and the suburbanites are not overlooked by two leaders who represent Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Democrats now control all of state government for the first time since 1990. Their main order of business will be to pass a two-year budget at a time when the state is facing a projected budget shortfall of several billion dollars.
After losing the Legislature two years ago, the DFL has regained majorities in both houses.
Now, with control over the Legislature and the Governor's office, the question is what the DFL plans to do over the next two years.
Gov. Mark Dayton says he wants to return to his top campaign pledge: to raise taxes on the state's wealthiest.
"I don't know what the legislative majorities will believe, but I do know what I believe," said Dayton at the DFL's election party last night. "And I know what I'll keep working for every day that I have the honor to be governor of this great state: a fairer tax system where the richest Minnesotans pay more of their fair share of taxes."
But whether a tax increase, for instance, is doable is another question. A slate of new DFL lawmakers who ran on promises of moderation and compromise, and a Republican contingent that still oppose DFL priorities could complicate the process.
House Minority Leader Rep. Paul Thissen was reluctant to say whether a tax increase was on the table. Some of the newest members of the Legislature might have a hard time selling the idea to constituents.
"The bottom line is that we're going to have a lot of new members coming into the House and we need to figure out where all those members are, too. It's going to be a very different legislature," he said. "We need to get a structurally balanced budget, but we're certainly not going to choose what all of our options are right now."
Read more here.(1 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton isn't on the ballot this year, but it's clear that his policies are becoming key to legislative elections.
The first-term governor has been spending a lot of time over the past few weeks campaigning for Democratic candidates for the Minnesota House and Senate.
"Usually candidates say 'This is the most important election in our lifetime' when their names are on the ballot," Dayton said recently at a rally in St. Cloud. "My name isn't on the ballot, and I say this is the most important election in our lifetime."
Dayton has been characterizing the GOP-controlled Legislature as extremists who are unwilling to compromise. He points to the state government shutdown in 2011 as one of several problems he's had with the Legislature.
"They really believe 'eliminate government, eliminate taxes and let businesses run free and we'll all live happily ever after,'" Dayton said. "It doesn't happen in fairy tales and it doesn't happen in this world either."
Dayton's policy goals may depend on whether Democrats win back control of the Legislature. Republicans have criticized his plan to raise taxes on Minnesota's top earners to help fix the state's structural budget problem. They have also called for spending cuts and tax cuts for businesses - things he mostly disagrees with.
And with another two-year projected budget deficit looming, Dayton's vision for government and his re-election in 2014, could depend on whether he has a supportive Legislature.
"People need to decide, are they willing to give DFLers a chance for two years to see if we can make the kind of progress that will make a difference in their lives?" Dayton said. "If we don't, then there's a remedy for that in 2014, but at least give us that chance."
Republicans are working hard to make sure Dayton doesn't get his wish. They're also trying to use Dayton and his policies to their political advantage this election year. Republicans are warning voters and business leaders of what could happen if the governor gets his wish of a DFL-controlled Legislature.
"Hopefully, the voters will put Republicans back in charge. If they don't, they better hang onto their wallets," said Rep Greg Davids, R-Preston. "Just hand your billfold over because they're going to come and get it anyway."
Davids, who chairs the House Taxes Committee, and others are pushing Dayton to release his tax reform plan before Election Day. Dayton has convened a task force to study ways to change and improve the state's tax code, but he won't release the plan until after Nov. 6. Davids said voters deserve to know the plan now so they can ask DFL candidates whether they support it.
"Let's have the debate before the election," Davids said. "Why wait?"
In some races, Republicans are trying to get their DFL opponents to say whether they support Dayton's tax plan.
Dayton says he doesn't want to release his plan because he doesn't want it to "get mired down in politics" because Republicans would "doom it before it even gets started." He stresses, however, that he'll continue to push for a tax increase on Minnesota's wealthiest 2 percent and that his plan would keep property taxes stable.
Most DFL candidates interviewed by MPR News say they support some sort of tax increase but aren't willing to say whether they'd support Dayton's plan to raise income taxes on Minnesota's top earners.
"He's on the right track and he just needs a Legislature that will work with him," said DFL candidate Anne Nolan, who is challenging Rep. Steve Gottwalt, R- St. Cloud.
The stakes for this year's election are huge.
Republicans currently hold a four seat majority in the Minnesota Senate and a six seat majority in the Minnesota House. Update: Democrats need to pick up four seats in the Minnesota Senate and six seats in the House to win the majority. Every seat is on the ballot this year and officials with both political parties say they see a solid path to the majority.
And while Republicans are warning about tax hikes if the DFL wins the Legislature, Dayton is promising an end to the partisanship in St. Paul. It's a message that he and other DFL candidates stress repeatedly on the campaign trail. They include Kevin Dahle, a Minnesota Senate candidate looking to represent the Northfield area.
"People are sick of the gridlock," Dahle said at a recent campaign rally. "Let's try to work together. People are tired of the partisanship and the bickering."
Republicans dismiss complaints about partisan rancor. They say divided government isn't always pretty, but that it results in a good product in the end.
"In talking to a lot of voters, they like the fact that we balanced the budget working with him," GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers said. "I think the voters knew what they were doing two years ago when they sent us mixed government."
It isn't clear whether Minnesotans will head to the polls on Tuesday with thoughts about whether Dayton should have a DFL-controlled Legislature. Most legislative races focus on where the specific candidates stand on the top issues facing the state. But that isn't stopping Dayton from making his pitch.
"I always tell candidates that I'll do whatever helps the most," Dayton is fond of saying. "I'll campaign for them or campaign against them. Whatever does the most good."
MPR's Conrad Wilson contributed to this story.(3 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton said today that he has appointed Katie Clark to serve as commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED).
According to a news release, Clark will replace Mark Phillips, who is resigning Friday to "pursue opportunities in the private sector." Clark is currently executive director of the Minnesota Trade Office.
"I thank Mark Phillips for his dedicated service to DEED and the people of Minnesota," Dayton said in the release. "I know that he will continue to be successful in his future endeavors. I have the utmost confidence in DEED's new Commissioner, Katie Clark. Commissioner Clark's leadership skills were well-developed by her work at Target Corporation and National Wind. As Director of Minnesota's International Trade Office, she has proven that she knows how to turn her ideas into action."
The leadership change comes the same day that DEED announced the addition 5,900 jobs in September, and a new seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 5.8 percent.
The city of St. Paul has decided it's going to put a big chunk of the $54 million Lowertown ballpark project out for bid, after a lawsuit challenged the decision by the administration of Mayor Chris Coleman to give the building work to Ryan Construction.
The city's now going to put the design-build work out for competitive bids, with requests for proposals going out Nov. 30.
Here's how the city's parks and recreation director Mike Hahm put it, "I think there's been a lot of interest in this, and in the interest of full transparency, Mayor Coleman thought it was best for the project, at a time when we could still make a move like this, to initiate a competitive selection process for the design builder."
Well, it turns out that the mayor might have gotten a little constituent pressure, as well. from over at 1006 Summit Ave. Coleman and Gov. Mark Dayton had a meeting of the minds yesterday about the ballpark project -- a project for which the Dayton administration recommended $25 million in state bonding money.
Coleman spokesman Joe Campbell confirmed the meeting, before the city's change of heart last night.
"I think both the governor and the mayor understand the importance of an open and transparent process," Campbell said.(1 Comments)
State Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, is in a dogfight of a campaign with Democrat Melisa Franzen to win a state Senate seat in the western suburbs. The race is gaining plenty of attention with outside groups spending heavily on the race. (You can read my story about the race here).
Despite that close contest, Downey isn't taking a run for higher office off the table. He's been mentioned as a possible candidate for governor in 2014.
Earlier this week, Downey downplayed talk of such a run but didn't rule it out.
"We're out door knocking for a senate seat and I'm just trying to meet as many people as I can," Downey said. "I'm flattered when people mention it. If the state were ever in a position where they're looking for somebody with my kind of background and experience, and it made sense to run for something else, I might consider it."
Downey then added that he had 10 more precincts to campaign in over the next few weeks.
Downey is one of several Republicans who are mentioned as possible candidates for governor in 2014. The others include former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and state Sen. Dave Thompson.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton says he intends to run for re-election.
Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon is scheduled to skydive with the U.S. Army on Tuesday.
In a news release, Prettner Solon says she'll join the Golden Knights, the U.S. Army Parachute Team, on a tandem skydive exercise in St. Paul. The group will jump from an altitude of 12,500 feet and will fall at a rate of 120 miles an hour. They'll land on the Minnesota State Capitol grounds.
"The men and women of our Armed Forces put their lives in danger every day in defense of our freedom and our way of life," Prettner Solon said in a statement. "I am honored to join the Golden Knights in this public demonstration of support for those who selflessly serve our country."
MPR News first inquired about the jump last month and a spokesman for the governor said Prettner Solon would not be involved. A spokesman for the governor says she became open to the jump after learning more about it. Jumping with one of the U.S. Army's premier skydiving units may have eased her concern.
Governor Mark Dayton says he'll continue to push his plan to raise taxes on Minnesota's top earners in his next budget plan.
Dayton told a group at the University of Minnesota today that his administration is coming up with a plan to overhaul the entire tax code to make the tax system fairer to lower and middle income people. He didn't offer specifics but said his plan would continue to include an income tax hike on the state's top 2 percent of earners.
Dayton also criticized Republicans in the Legislature and in Congress for being reluctant to raise taxes to pay for new programs.
"This unwillingness to pay taxes and seeing it as a threat to our freedom and our liberty and our way of life, to me, is going to be the death of this country if it's not corrected," Dayton said.
Dayton said he didn't want to release his tax plan now because he didn't want it to get "mired in politics" during the campaign season. When pressed for specifics, Dayton said voters have a clear choice between his policies and the plans put forward by GOP legislative leaders.
"What people need to know and can vote on is that I'm committed to raising taxes on the wealthiest two percent of Minnesotans to make our tax system less regressive and the Republicans oppose that," Dayton said. "That to me is the acid test."
Republicans have criticized Dayton's call to raise taxes because they say it would make business owners less willing to invest in Minnesota.
Dayton said several other things during the wide ranging speech and interview.
He said he supports opening up trade with Cuba.
He's open to lowering the state's corporate tax rate but may close other unspecified loopholes.
He said he won't present a state based health exchange to the federal government until after the election. He also said it's an open question as to whether he can create the health exchange without legislative input.
He'll spend the next few months going to key business leaders and asking them what they need to succeed.
Here's Dayton's full speech: Listen
Here's his q and a with the U of M's Larry Jacobs: Listen
Gov. Mark Dayton says he has "mostly decided" which local construction projects will get to share $47.5 million in bonding money from a special development fund.
Dayton said today that he plans to announce the winning projects on Thursday. The Department of Employment and Economic Development received 90 applications, representing $288 million in requests. Dayton repeated his criticism of the Legislature for omitting several local projects from last session's bonding bill, and instead creating the competitive development fund.
"Most of them are very important projects to the communities and to the regions, and it's just a shame that it's been set up this way," Dayton said. "It was a mistake to do so in hindsight, and I don't think we should do it again."
Dayton said the local projects that aren't selected will still have a shot at future assistance. He said he plans to unveil another bonding bill proposal in January.
Minnesota Management and Budget says Minnesota's tax collections are $41 million more than forecast for the month of August. The state agency says tax receipts for Fiscal Year 2013 (July and August) are now $31 million above forecast.
The report notes that Individual Income Taxes, Sales Taxes and Corporate Income Taxes are all higher than projected.
MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter notes that the tax report should be interpreted with "great caution." The agency will use the tax collection report as a guidepost for the state's budget situation.
It should not be used, however, as a projection of whether the state will have a surplus or deficit in the next budget cycle. State spending is not included in these reports and will not be known until the complete budget forecast is released in late November.
For the first time in recent history, a group is starting to run television ads targeting the Minnesota Legislature. The liberal group, The Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM), says it will start running the ad to try to convince voters to back DFL candidates for the Legislature.
The effort is unique, since candidates and outside groups rarely spend the large amount of money needed to air commercials on broadcast stations like KSTP, KARE, FOX9 and WCCO. Most candidates and outside groups run ads on cable TV because they can be more targeted to specific legislative districts. In a news release, ABM said it would start running ads on broadcast TV and then take a more targeted advertising approach on cable. A spokesman won't say how much the group is spending on the ad campaign.
The Alliance for a Better Minnesota is a group funded by wealthy DFL donors, labor unions and other groups. Democrats lost control of both the House and Senate in the 2010 election. ABM spent most of its time and energy helping elect Democrat Mark Dayton governor in 2010 and did little to influence the races for the Legislature.
ABM is just one of several outside groups that are targeting legislative races this year. Other groups include the GOP-leaning Freedom Club and the MN Chamber of Commerce, which endorses candidates of both parties but supports the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Every seat in the Legislature is on the ballot this year.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is criticizing Republican Paul Ryan for getting his facts wrong and for misleading the nation's voters during last week's speech at the Republican National Convention. Ryan, who is the Republican Party's vice presidential nominee, repeatedly criticized President Obama during his convention speech. The speech was panned by independent fact-checkers for several inaccuracies and omissions. Dayton spoke before a group of Democrats in Charlotte this morning and called Ryan the "two-hour marathon man" for saying he ran a two hour and 50 minute marathon at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth in 1990 when he actually ran it in four hours.
"What bothered me is that not only did he totally misrepresent what he's done in this marathon but when he finally acknowledged it, it was just disingenuous as it was the first time," Dayton said. "He said 'Well, I rounded up to three when I should have rounded up to four.' Well even from Wisconsin you should know the difference between three and four."
Democrats are in Charlotte this week for the Democratic National Convention. Their main order of business will be to nominate President Obama and Vice President Biden for a second term.
The day before a Minnesota House and Senate panel is expected to reject a contract agreement for state employees, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton blasted the meeting as "political theatrics."
Several Republicans have criticized the deal, saying it's out of line with what private employers are offering their workers. The GOP chair and vice chair of the Legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations, Sen. Mike Parry and Rep. Steve Drazkowski, had asked for a meeting with Dayton prior to the 8:30 a.m., Thursday subcommittee meeting.
"As we have looked at those two negotiated contracts, we have concerns that both are lacking in any reforms that limit automatic cost increases or embrace performance incentives," Parry and Drazkowski wrote.
Dayton declined the request today in a letter to the two lawmakers. He also took exception to their criticism of the agreement his administration recently negotiated.
"It is a responsible agreement and one that is well within the financial parameters established in the four, two-year contracts negotiated by the previous Republican administration, all of which were approved by the Legislature," Dayton wrote. "We can find no evidence that either of you publicly criticized the previous governor for his four agreements."
Dayton was just getting warmed up. Later in the three-page letter, he criticized Parry and Drazkowski for their support of GOP "attacks" on public employees and collective bargaining.
"Unfortunately, you and other Republican politicians continue trying to drive a wedge between public and private sector employees. The repeated claims that state employee unions are ripping off Minnesota taxpayers are designed for political gain, not constructive reforms. And they are wrong."
The 2013 Legislature will have to vote on the contract proposal if the subcommittee rejects it.
Here's the governor's letter:
Here's the Parry/Drazkowski letter:
A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit that would have ended same-day voter registration in Minnesota.
A group of 7 citizens, and the conservative groups the Minnesota Voters Alliance and the Minnesota Freedom Council filed the lawsuit challenging the state's same-day registration system because they said ineligible voters cast ballots in the 2008 and 2010 elections.
But Judge Donovan Frank ruled that the groups failed to allege a violation of federal law, failed to point to any election misconduct and failed to exhaust their claims in state court. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a Democrat, and other Democratic leaning groups praised the decision because it will ensure same-day registration in November.
The ruling comes as the Minnesota Voters Alliance is pushing for a constitutional amendment to require people to present a photo ID to vote. Ritchie says the amendment goes further than that and would end same-day voter registration in Minnesota - a claim pro-amendment groups deny.
Here's the ruling:
Posted at 5:00 PM on August 16, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton is calling for a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Minnesota tomorrow, to commemorate the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
Dayton released a statement today, in which he urged Minnesotans to consider their "dark past" on the 150th anniversary. He also criticized the actions of Alexander Ramsey, Minnesota's second governor, who after the war said the Dakota should be exterminated or driven from the state.
Here's the full statement:
August 17, 1862 marked a terrible period in Minnesota's history. The first victims of the "U.S.-Dakota War of 1862" lost their lives on that day, 150 years ago. The ensuing attacks and counter-attacks killed hundreds more U.S. soldiers, Dakota braves, conniving traders, and innocent people. Tragically, those deaths started a vicious cycle of hate crimes, which continued long after the war was ended.
The events leading to those atrocities actually began before 1862. The United States Government, through its agents in the new State of Minnesota, either persuaded, deceived, or forced the state's long-time inhabitants from Dakota and Ojibwe Indian tribes to give up their lands for promises of money, food, and supplies. Many of the government's promises were repeatedly broken.
The displaced Dakota and Chippewa tribes watched newly arrived settlers claim the lands that had been theirs. They were denied their treaty payments of money and food, which resulted in starvation for many of their children and elderly. Often, when annuity payments did finally arrive, they were immediately plundered by some dishonest officials and traders.
On August 17, 1862, a group of Dakota braves attacked and killed five new settlers at Acton in Meeker County. The Dakota community was not unanimous in the decision to go to war; some of them helped the settlers. Nonetheless, the war began. Atrocities were committed by combatants on both sides against combatants and noncombatants alike. Hundreds of people were killed. Many more Indian and immigrant lives were ruined. And the lives of Minnesotans were altered for the next 150 years.
The war ended, but the attacks against innocent Indian children, women, and elderly continued. They were even encouraged by the Governor of Minnesota.
On September 9, 1862, Alexander Ramsey proclaimed: "Our course then is plain. The Sioux Indians of Minnesota must be exterminated or driven forever beyond the borders of the State. . . ."
"They must be regarded and treated as outlaws. If any shall escape extinction, the wretched remnant must be driven beyond our borders and our frontier garrisoned with a force sufficient to forever prevent their return."
A Minnesota newspaper chimed in, "We have plenty of young men who would like no better fun than a good Indian hunt."
I am appalled by Governor Ramsey's words and by his encouragement of vigilante violence against innocent people; and I repudiate them. I know that almost all Minnesotans, living today, would be just as revolted. The viciousness and violence, which were commonplace 150 years ago in Minnesota, are not accepted or allowed now.
Yet hostile feelings do still exist between some Native Americans and their neighbors. Detestable acts are still perpetrated by members of one group against the other. Present grievances, added to past offenses, make it difficult to commemorate the past, yet not continue it.
I call for tomorrow, the 150th anniversary of August 17, 1862, to be "a Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation in Minnesota." I ask everyone to remember that dark past; to recognize its continuing harm in the present; and to resolve that we will not let it poison the future.
To everyone who lost family members during that time, I offer my deepest condolences for your losses. I ask you especially to help lead us to better attitudes and actions toward others.
To honor the American soldiers, Dakota people, and settlers who lost their lives in that war, I order that all state flags shall be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on August 17, 2012.
And I urge everyone participating in the events commemorating this 150th Anniversary to practice not only remembrance, but also reconciliation.
Posted at 3:25 PM on August 16, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, Campaign 2012: U.S. House, MN Legislature, Mark Dayton, Redistricting
A five member panel of judges tasked with redrawing the state's political lines has awarded $345,000 in attorney's fees.
The judicial panel ruled that attorneys representing the DFL Party, Republicans in Minnesota and a group of DFL citizens are entitled to $115,000 each for the work on the redistricting case. The court ruled that the funds should be made available as a result of the Civil Rights Act. Attorneys for the three groups were seeking a total payment of $691,131.
The attorneys were hired to represent the parties in court after Democratic Governor Mark Dayton failed to agree to a set of political boundaries with GOP leaders in the Legislature. A five member judicial panel was then tasked with taking testimony on how the new set of political lines should be drawn as result of the 2010 census. The court released the new set of maps in February.
Secretary of State Mark Ritchie asked the panel to deny attorneys fees because he said taxpayers should not bear the expense of redistricting.
Here's the order:
A110152Order - Taxation of Costs-Disbursements Andor Atty Fees
State lawmakers continue their preparations for a special session aimed at providing relief to storm and flood-damaged areas of the state.
The one-day special session is tentatively scheduled for Friday, Aug. 24. Members of the House and Senate dug into the details of a proposed $190 million bill today with representatives of several state agencies. Last week, some Republicans said the proposed aid package from DFL Governor Mark Dayton was bigger than expected, and they were experiencing "sticker shock."
Senate Majority Leader Senjem, R-Rochester, told reporters after the meeting that he still has questions about some aspects of the proposed bill. But Senjem wasn't questioning the estimated cost.
"I don't think I had sticker shock," Senjem said. "We knew initially that (it would be) a little over $100 million, and that was going to grow. But I think we're all going to look at details, and I think the emphasis is we're going to stick to flood-related damages and wherever that number takes us."
Republican leaders have not yet said whether the bill will go through any committee hearings before the special session floor votes. State Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, warned against rushing the bill to the floor without any hearings or public testimony.
"That's the worst way to solve these problems," Pelowski said.
Gov. Dayton said the special session is still on track, but he's waiting to make the call until he has a prior agreement worked out with GOP leaders. He has a private meeting scheduled with those leaders tomorrow.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says he thinks a special session can still take place as tentatively planned on August 24, but he wants Republicans to get over their "sticker shock."
GOP leaders said last week that Dayton's proposed $190 million package of disaster relief for storm and flood-damaged areas of the state was much more than they expected. Dayton told reporters today said that he was disappointed with the Republican response. He also said there was no reason for surprise, given the scope of the disaster.
"Anybody who wants to deny disaster aid to people in Minnesota who suffered a severe disaster is going to be accountable in the court of public opinion more than anywhere else," Dayton said.
Members of a legislative panel are scheduled to meet tomorrow at the Capitol to work on the bill for a special session.
The Minnesota Secretary of State's office is reporting that voter turnout in Tuesday's primary was 9 percent. That's the second lowest voter turnout for a primary since 1950. Only the 2004 primary had a lower percentage of eligible voters turnout for a primary with 7.73 percent that year.
There are several factors that could have played a part in the diminished turnout. There wasn't a competitive statewide race on the ballot, and it was only the second year the primary was held in August - a time when many voters aren't engaged in the political process.
There were efforts to move the 2014 primary to June but a bill failed to get the necessary votes to pass the Minnesota Senate. Last night's turnout is prompting some supporters of a June primary to push for the legislation next year.
"The support is there to pass this," said Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. "As people see how this particular primary went, we're getting more and more supporters everyday for moving the primary up to June."
Here's the primary turnout history from the Minnesota Secretary of State:
Posted at 3:59 PM on August 13, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, MN Legislature, Mark Dayton, State Government
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, is criticizing the proposed state employee contracts. Gov. Dayton and the state's two largest public employee unions have agreed on new contracts that provide an across the board pay increase of 2 percent. The contracts also require employees to pay higher health insurance co-pays. Zellers appeared on conservative radio host Scott Hennen's program, where he criticized the proposal.
"When you look at how many folks out there haven't had a raise or haven't had an increase in their paycheck or maybe took a cut in their paycheck, asking for a pay increase at this point in the economy, at this point where our nation in rebuilding, I think is overstepping the bounds," Zellers said.
The legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations met last week to discuss the contracts. The subcommittee has to act on the agreement within 30 days or the contracts will be enacted on a temporary basis. If the subcommittee, which is scheduled to meet again on August 23, rejects the contracts, they will not go into effect until the full Legislature votes on the contracts when it returns for the 2013 session. Zellers hinted that Republicans would not be inclined to support the contracts if they retain the majority.
"From a cost standpoint, we have a two year budget that we already negotiated, we've already planned out," he said. "Adding this on top of that, is an unexpected expense for that next legislative body. We still think we're going to be in the majority so you're asking us to add on to that next budget cycle."
An official with Minnesota Management and Budget says Zellers is incorrect when it comes to the cost of the contracts. He said the expected increases were already factored into the current state budget. He said agencies would have to cover any added costs within their existing budgets. MMB says it will cost the state $13 million more if the new contracts are approved.
Posted at 3:03 PM on August 9, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, Campaign 2012: U.S. MN CD1, MN Legislature, Mark Dayton
State Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, had hoped to use today's Subcommittee on Employee Relations hearing to criticize new state employee contracts but he instead took fire for calling the meeting and how he ran it.
The contract proposals were agreed to by Governor Dayton's administration and the state's two largest public employee unions. The contracts call for an across the board 2 percent pay raise and higher health insurance co-pays. If the subcommittee approves the contracts they go into effect immediately.
Democrats repeatedly questioned why Parry called the hearing now. Several Democrats and union members said the timing is suspicious, given Tuesday's GOP primary in Minnesota's 1st Congressional District that pits Parry against Allen Quist.
"I question that you're using this committee as a different sort of tool than it's been historically used," Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul said at the outset of the hearing.
Parry repeatedly defended himself. Other lawmakers objected when Parry pounded his gavel and called the audience out of order for guffawing at Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, for saying he wanted to treat people fairly.
"Excuse me folks, don't make me clear the room," Parry told the audience. Listen
Lillie later questioned why Parry continued to interrupt and editorialize "when other members were asking questions" about the contracts.
"Is that how you work it in the Senate?" Lille asked
"When you're chair it is,' Parry responded.
"So all's good and fair in love and war in the Senate," Lillie said. "It's probably a blessing your down to your last three meetings. I figure you'll milk this for three days of per diem (legislative pay), perhaps." Listen
Parry quickly called a 10 minute recess and left the room. As he walked out, a member of the audience hollered "pop some pills!" in reference to Parry's recent comments that he saw Gov. Dayton take 15 to 16 pills during legislative negotiations.
The committee returned the focus to the state employee contracts after the recess.
But GOP lawmakers, including Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina, said they were unhappy that performance-based pay wasn't included in the contract proposal.
"We're still left with length of service and steps as a proxy for value and performance and I don't think that's ultimately where we need to be to get the most out of our state workforce and to encourage innovation and to engage our workers in this difficult process of redesigning and restructuring what we're doing here for the future," Downey said.
Several union leaders and DFL lawmakers called the contract proposal a modest pay increase. Minnesota Association of Professional Employees said Republican opponents of the deal are being vindictive to state workers.
"It's time to move off of pettiness," Monroe said after the hearing. "It's time to get Parry and crew to recognize the work that state workers do and to ratify our contract and move on, so we can move on providing services to the state of Minnesota."
No matter how the subcommittee votes the full Legislature must accept or reject the contracts when the 2013 session starts in January.
Parry said he intends to hold a subcommittee vote on the contracts on Aug. 23. That's nine days after he'll know whether he's on the ballot for Congress in November or will be out of elected office altogether.(4 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton says a Republican state senator's comments about the medication he takes is a form of gutter politics.
Republican Sen. Mike Parry, R- Waseca, who is running for the GOP nomination the 1st Congressional District talked about Dayton during a fundraiser in Brown County on Monday. In a video, posted online by a New Ulm Journal reporter, Parry said Dayton is "scary."
"When you sit across from him and watch him pop 15 to 16 pills while you're having a meeting, it's scary," Parry said. "We all know how scary Obama is, he is at the same level."
Dayton said he does take medication but said Parry is exaggerating. He said Parry is trying to boost his campaign for Congress by criticizing him.
"That's a lie," Dayton said about Parry's remark. "Somebody who probably thinks he's losing an election in six days is going to reach for anything he can and try to make an issue out of it and blow it up and see if he can get an advantage with it. To me it says a lot more about him than it does about me."
Dayton said he won't ask Parry to apologize for the remarks, but he said Parry should apologize for suggesting he cut funding for veterans services. Parry's campaign manager says Parry stands by his comments.
Parry faces former state Representative Allen Quist next week in the Republican primary in Minnesota's 1st District. The winner will face incumbent DFL Congressman Tim Walz in November.
Update: Parry released this statement:
Statement from Mike Parry:
"I have great sympathy for those who struggle with addiction and depression. Governor Dayton has been upfront about facing these challenges and confirmed today that he takes medication. Last night at a Republican fundraiser, I shared a story from a breakfast meeting I had with Governor Dayton. At that meeting, Governor Dayton took pills. The larger point I made last night was that our state is at a great risk if Democrats take control of the state house and senate -- consequently, Governor Dayton would be able to enact legislation that is out-of-the mainstream with the majority of Minnesotans."(4 Comments)
State lawmakers will meet Tuesday to begin discussing the scope of a disaster relief package that they could soon take up in a special session.
House and Senate GOP leaders told their members via an email today that the session is now tentatively set for Friday, Aug. 24. However, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton has not yet made that call.
Legislators are scheduled to get an update Tuesday from state officials on the extent of the government response so far in the 13 affected counties. They'll also revisit a legislative auditor's report from earlier this year that evaluated past recovery efforts.
Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, the transportation committee chair and designated relief bill author, said the meeting is an important first step in the process.
"I don't know that we'll have a good idea what the bill will look like, but we'll have a good idea of what the amounts will be and what the damage assessments will be," Gimse said.
Gimse said legislators will have to decide whether to use bonds to cover the relief costs or tap existing state funds.
Democrats are ready to help. House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he expects a bipartisan effort to address the needs of affected communities.
"People are going to be focused very directly on the task at hand, which is making sure the Legislature does its part in helping out these families that were affected by the floods," Thissen said. "I don't get any indication from talking to Republicans in leadership or otherwise -- or Democrats -- that there's going to be a whole lot of politics in this."
The Commission on Judicial Selection announced today that it is recommending four candidates for a vacancy on Minnesota's Supreme Court.
The candidates are Ramsey County District Court Judge Tanya Bransford, Minnesota Court of Appeals judges Margaret Chutich and Wilhelmina Wright and former U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug.
Lillehaug is best known for his work in DFL politics and constitutional cases. He worked on the 2008 U.S Senate recount and the 2010 gubernatorial recount. He successfully challenged Minnesota's handgun permit law and also worked on lawsuit that challenged then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty's unilateral budget cuts through a process known as unallotment in 2009.
Wright chaired the 2010 Redistricting panel that drew the state's political boundaries.
Bransford manages a block of civil, felony and property cases in Ramsey County and currently works as the presiding Juvenile Court judge.
Chutich serves as Assistant Dean at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs and also was a deputy state attorney general.
Dayton's office says the governor will make the appointment to the Supreme Court after he interviews the four candidates.
This will be Dayton's first appointment to the high court. He'll be filling a vacancy created when Justice Helen Meyer leaves. She announced her retirement earlier this year.
GOP legislative leaders have scheduled a joint House-Senate hearing to focus on flood relief for northeastern Minnesota. Tuesday's hearing will focus on the infrastructure and individual damage caused by the summer flooding that affected Duluth and surrounding communities. Gov. Dayton and legislative leaders say they hope to call a one-day special session later this month to appropriate funding for affected communities.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has already declared the area a disaster area which will allow federal money to pay for 75 percent of the recovery. Dayton says he'd like to see the state pay for the rest of the clean-up costs.
Dayton has also appealed a decision by FEMA to reject flood recovery funds for individuals. The agency said the damage was not widespread enough to merit those funds.
The legislative hearing is scheduled for Tuesday at 11:30 at the State Capitol.
Gov. Mark Dayton's former DFL opponent is hosting a fundraiser for him. Former Minnesota House Minority Leader Matt Entenza is scheduled to headline a St. Paul fundraiser for Dayton on Monday night.
Dayton defeated Entenza and former state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher in the 2010 DFL Primary. He has, however, signaled a willingness to work with both of them since he was elected governor. Dayton recently appointed Kelliher to the MnSCU Board of Trustees. Dayton also appointed Entenza to serve on the Minnesota Sunset Commission, a group that examines government agencies and determines whether they should continue operating.
Former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Walter Mondale, DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Mark Dayton and former Gov. Arne Carlson will help dedicate the Hubert H. Humphrey memorial at the State Capitol.
The memorial will be on the southwest side of the Minnesota State Capitol Mall. It will include a 7-foot bronze statue of Humphrey, a garden and slabs of granite with quotations from Humphrey.
The ceremony will be held on Saturday, August 4 at 4:30. The event will be open to the public.
Clinton was already scheduled to be in Minnesota that day. He's scheduled to speak at a fundraiser for the DFL Party that evening.
Posted at 9:50 AM on July 24, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton has selected Jamie Tincher as his new deputy chief of staff for policy and legislative affairs.
Tincher replaces Michelle Kelm-Helgen, who left last month to chair the newly created Minnesota Sports Facility Authority. Tincher is currently director of caucus and legislative services for the Minnesota House DFL caucus. She begins her new job on Aug. 15
In an e-mail announcing the hire, Dayton's chief of Staff Tina Smith said she was delighted to share the news.
"Jaime will be a fantastic addition to our team," Smith wrote. "Jamie will bring to the Deputy position excellent strategic and management skills, well-established relationships with legislators and local organizations and advocacy groups, and a deep knowledge of the state's political landscape. On a personal note, I know you will enjoy working with Jaime. She is smart, cool under pressure, and a great listener and manager."
Tincher also managed the 2010 gubernatorial campaign of Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who won the DFL endorsement that year but lost in the primary to Dayton.
Posted at 10:13 AM on July 19, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton issued a formal apology today for comments he made during an interview Tuesday on the MPR News program the Daily Circuit.
Dayton said he made a mistake by comparing the off-field difficulties of professional football players to the psychological adjustments of returning combat veterans. In a written statement, Dayton said the analogy was a mistake.
"Some of the psychological dynamics may be similar; however, I, in no way, meant to compare their challenges with the traumas and hardships experienced by the heroes who fought in places like Iraq and Afghanistan," Dayton wrote. "While I am a football fan, I reserve my highest respect and admiration for those courageous Americans in uniform, who risk their lives to keep us safe and to make the world more free. I regret my mistake, and I apologize for it."
During the Tuesday interview, Host Kerri Miller asked Dayton about the recent off the field problems of Minnesota Vikings players, including the Texas barroom arrest of Adrian Peterson. The governor offered his theory.
"Idle time is the devil's play. They play basically six months of the year, from the end of July to the end of December, if they don't make the playoffs. The end of January if they do. Then they have all this block of time, more than like any other professional athletes, when they really don't have anything to do. It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are more probably more susceptible to be in bars at 2:00 in the morning and have problems or DUIs or other things. It doesn't excuse it. It just says it probably comes with it."
Dayton later made the comparison that he now regrets.
"They're heavily armored and heavily psyched to do what they have to do and go out there. It's basically slightly civilized war. Then they take that into society, much as soldiers come back and they've been in combat or at the edge of it and then suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge."
Minnesota Management and Budget announced today that the 2012 revenues exceed the February forecast by $336 million.
The department's July Economic Update finds that higher-than-predicted income tax receipts are the main driver for the good news.
The higher tax collections are good news for Gov. Dayton and state lawmakers who have to craft a two year budget in January. There is, however, some cause for concern. The update says job growth slowed in the first half of 2012 and "GDP growth is now expected to fall below forecast made earlier this year." That could mean there is an increase in state services like subsidized health insurance.
The update only gauges revenue collections and doesn't account for spending. Minnesota officials won't have a better understanding of the state's budget situation until the next forecast is released in November.
Here's the update:
July Update 2012
Gov. Dayton sent letters to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and GOP legislative leaders saying his administration is moving forward with creating a state-based health insurance exchange.
"We will seize the historic opportunities to improve the quality and affordability of health care afforded us by new law, known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, whose constitutionality has now been affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court," Dayton wrote to Sebelius.
The Dayton Administration has been working to create the exchange over the past ten months. The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling last month upholding the federal health care law gave supporters more incentive to move forward. The DFL governor's administration has been working to implement the exchange despite protests from Republicans in the Minnesota legislature, who questioned the law's constitutionality.
In a letter to GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers and GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, Dayton said it was their responsibility to create the exchange and invited them to work with his administration.
"In the future, the law will continue to be evaluated and possibly revised. However, we share the responsibility now to prepare to implement it, beginning next year, in the best interests of our citizens," Dayton wrote to Zellers and Senjem.
The state-based health insurance exchange is a key part of the federal health care law. The goal is to create an online marketplace where individuals and businesses can shop for health insurance. The exchanges are supposed to be operating by 2014. If the state doesn't create an exchange, the federal government will create one for the state's residents. Several groups that support Republicans, including Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, are lobbying for lawmakers to create a state-based exchange.
It isn't certain that those lobbying efforts will be successful. GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean wrote on his blog today that he supports repealing the entire health care law. GOP Sen. David Hann, who chairs the committee that oversees health and human services, told MPR News that he's reluctant to work on the exchange because the law can be repealed if Republicans run the table in the November election.
But Republican Rep. Jim Abeler, says the state should create the exchange. Abeler chairs the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development says it has received more than $288 million in requests for an economic development fund enacted into law last session. The total amount of the requests is more than six times the size of the $47.5 million available fund.
The projects vary in size and scope. The city of St. Paul is asking for $27 million to help build a minor league ballpark for the St. Paul Saints in Lowertown. Minneapolis is asking for $25 million to redesign Nicollet Mall. Rochester is asking for $25 million to expand the Mayo Civic Center. Two other cities, St. Cloud and Mankato, also asked for money to renovate and expand convention and civic centers. The city of Braham has the smallest request: $221,000 for sewer and water infrastructure.
DEED's commissioner Mark Phillips now will have to sort through the proposals and determine which communities should receive the funds. The department will use a set of criteria that relies on number of jobs created and the economic impact the project will bring to the state of Minnesota. Lawmakers authorized the $47.5 million in the $496 million bonding bill signed by Governor Mark Dayton last May.
DEED officials have said they'd like to appropriate the money by the end of the summer so construction could start this year.
(Will be updated)
Here's the list of requests:
Posted at 3:04 PM on July 3, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
The National Education Association honored Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton today by naming him "America's Greatest Education Governor" for 2012.
NEA officials presented the award to Dayton during the teacher union's representative assembly in Washington, DC. An NEA news release said the annual award recognizes and honors governors who have made major, state-level education strides that improve public schools.
"Gov. Dayton has repeatedly stood strong for Minnesota's students and schools," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "He has kept his promise to make education a top priority of his administration by increasing education funding and focusing on our earliest learners. We are pleased to honor Gov. Dayton with the America's Greatest Education Governor Award. We are grateful for his continued commitment to students and the education professionals who work in schools and classrooms."
The release noted Dayton's signing of an education policy bill that includes a provision to require school districts to pay teachers their full salary while on a military leave.
Dayton is the fifth recipient of the award. Last year, the NEA honored Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.
This week's flooding in Duluth has some state officials talking about the need for a special legislative session to pass a package of disaster relief.
Gov. Mark Dayton was in Duluth today to get a look at the damage. Afterwards, Dayton said a special legislative session is possible.
"I don't rule that out. I have to make an assessment," Dayton said. "If that's needed to bring the kind of financial assistance that's necessary and to expedite that process, then I'm certainly willing to consider that."
But before calling a special session, Dayton stressed that he would need to reach a prior agreement with Republican legislative leaders on the scope of the agenda.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, haven't specifically said whether they support a special session. But they issued a joint statement that seemed to show a willingness.
"Minnesota has a proud tradition of coming together to help cities and neighbors in need," Zellers and Senjem wrote. "We commit as legislative leaders to support the City of Duluth and the surrounding area - as we have supported the Red River Valley, southeastern Minnesota and other communities struck by natural disasters - recover and rebuild."
Other parts of the state are also cleaning up from flooding and severe storms, and that could broaden the scope of a special session. Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL South St. Paul, said his suburban district sustained quite a bit of storm damage this week, including his own house. Hansen said he thinks a special session is likely, once local officials make all the the necessary assessments.
"Looking at the north country and the damage they've had, and the damage we've had in northern Dakota County, it looks like we may have the need for a session," Hansen said. "But I want to make sure before we call for one we have some good numbers and know exactly what we're asking for."
The last weather-related special session was in October 2010, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty called legislators back to St. Paul for a day to pass an $80 million disaster relief package for 30 counties.
Both Zellers and Senjem said they are open to a special session if one is necessary. The two GOP leaders said they plan to travel to Duluth next week to look at the flood damage.
Minnesota Management and Budget reports that the state of Minnesota collected $32.3 million more in taxes in May than earlier projections. The latest report shows that the state continues to bring in more revenue than projected during the February forecast. MMB says the state has taken in $148 million more than projected in February.
MMB says higher sales and corporate income taxes are the main reason May's revenues are above the forecast. Personal income taxes, however, are trending lower than projected.
The report is good news as Governor Dayton and state lawmakers as they face a projected deficit in the next two-year budget. It doesn't guarantee, however, that the state is taking in more money than it's spending. That's because state spending is not factored into MMB's revenue reports. The next revenue forecast (in November) will outline state spending patterns.
Here's the report from MMB:
Posted at 6:00 AM on June 8, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton leaves on a trade mission to China today, and he says an important part of the trip will be the opening of a new economic development office there.
Dayton is leading a delegation of 50 people to China for just over a week. The group includes representatives from business, agriculture and higher education. Officials from the Twin Cities economic development agency known as the "Greater MSP Partnership" will also be on the trip, and they plan to open an office in Shanghai.
CEO Michael Langley said the office will help businesses make connections develop relationships.
"You can't expect to go into a first meeting and necessarily close a deal the first day," Langley said. "It takes relationship-building. So, there will be a long-term growth strategy as well."
Langley said the office, which is set to open next Wednesday, will also be the base for Greater MSP's international marketing efforts.
Gov. Dayton, who made several trips to China as a U.S. Senator, also stressed the importance of building relationships.
"That's what I've found in the past you need to be successful in China, which is why the Greater MSP initiative is so important," Dayton said. "Because having somebody in the country on an ongoing basis is really going to multiply the effectiveness of a trip like this."
State officials say China is Minnesota's second-largest export market. In 2010, sales of Minnesota products to China reached $1.84 billion, up 45 percent from the previous year.
Posted at 2:35 PM on June 6, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton announced today that he has appointed Judge Beverly Jones Heydinger to chair the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Heydinger will fill the post previously held by former state Sen. Ellen Anderson, who was Dayton original choice. Senate Republicans voted in January to fire Anderson.
Heydinger currently serves as an Administrative Law Judge. She previously served as the state's Deputy Attorney General. Dayton praised Heydinger in a news release.
"Judge Heydinger will be an outstanding Chair of the PUC," Dayton wrote. "In her work as an Administrative Law Judge, she has demonstrated a strong depth, breadth of knowledge, and ability to master complex issues quickly."
Heydinger will begin her PUC duties on July 2.
Gov. Dayton is scheduled to headline a fundraiser later this month to help a group that wants to defeat an constitutional amendment that would define marriage between one man and one woman.
The fundraiser is being billed as the "first-ever Governor's Pride Reception." It will be held on June 19, four days before the Twin Cities Pride Festival. The funds will go to Minnesotans United for All Families, which is working to defeat the amendment.
Meanwhile, Dayton's sons, Eric and Andrew, announced that they're donating $200,000 to the group. In an e-mail to supporters through Minnesotans United for All Families, the Daytons are encouraging donors to "match their contributions."
"It's simple: Committed, same-sex couples should have the freedom to marry. Together, we can contribute $400,000 toward Minnesotans United's efforts to protect that freedom," they wrote in the e-mail.
Their e-mail comes one day after Public Policy Polling released a poll saying there is growing opposition to the proposed amendment among those polled.
June 19 is the filing deadline where the public will get a better understanding of who is funding the groups. Minnesota for Marriage, a group that supports the amendment, reported raising roughly $1.3 million most of it coming from the Catholic Church, the National Organization for Marriage and the Minnesota Family Council.
If a majority of those support the measure in the November election, Minnesota's Constitution would be amended to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
ROCHESTER -- In his speech to delegates at the DFL convention, Gov. Mark Dayton said the party must make rebuilding majorities in the Legislature its priority this election year.
Dayton said he will do everything he can to win both chambers, whether it be fundraising or campaigning.
"I always tell candidates I'll do whatever helps them the most," Dayton said. "I'll campaign for them, I'll campaign against them, whichever does the most good."
Though candidates will be counting on Dayton to help them win this year, in 2010 Dayton wasn't allowed to speak at the DFL convention. This year, he was welcomed warmly by the party and the delegates.
The episode two years ago is "history," Dayton said. "I'm just glad to get such an enthusiastic reception."
During his speech, Dayton reflected on what the Legislature might look like had there been a Republican Governor, quoting Tom Emmer, the GOP candidate Dayton narrowly defeated in 2010.
"An Emmer administration would make Wisconsin look like the poor, ugly stepchild that they are," Dayton said.
Dayton said there would have been $200 billion more in spending cuts, more pollution, collective bargaining would have been "eviscerated" and Minnesota would be a "right-to-work" state.
With a DFL majority and governor, Minnesotans can count on higher taxes on the wealthiest, property taxes would be lower, and public education would improve - all issues DFL candidates and liberal groups campaigning for them will be highlighting this election season.
Hear the rest of Dayton's speech here: Listen
Photo Credit: Gov. Mark Dayton speaks to delagates at the DFL state convention in Rochester Saturday, Jun. 2, 2012. (Alex Kolyer for MPR)(2 Comments)
From MPR's Dan Gunderson...
State Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, is announcing his retirement this morning. Lanning says after prayerful consideration he decided not to seek re-election to a sixth term. Lanning says he looks forward to spending more time with family and friends.
Lanning authored the Vikings stadium bill that was enacted into law this year. He served five terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He was mayor of Moorhead for 21 years before he was elected to the state legislature.
Lanning's decision comes less than a week before filings close.
GOP legislative leaders said they expected Lanning to run for reelection. Democrats say they have a shot at winning the open seat.
Play the audio below to hear Lanning's interview on All Things Considered Thursday.
Update: GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers issued this statement on Lanning's retirement:
"Representative Lanning has served his community and our state with great class, and he is a true statesman. I've had the privilege of knowing Morrie since before either of us came to St. Paul. His dedication to public service and the honorable way he goes about working with his colleagues are second to none. We will miss having him as a legislator. I wish him well as a colleague and a friend."Lanning is the 28th member of the Minnesota House to announce their retirement.
Here's the list of House retirements:
Democrats not running again:
Rep. Marion Greene, DFL-Minneapolis
Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton
Rep. Denise Dittrich, DFL-Champlin
Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph
Rep. Bev Scalze, DFL-Little Canada (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood
Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson
Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville
Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia
Rep. Kory Kath, DFL-Owatonna
Rep. Sandra Peterson, DFL-New Hope
Republicans not running again:
Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove
Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls
Rep. Pat Mazorol, R-Bloomington
Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Ron Shimanski, R-Silver Lake
Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount (running for the U.S. Senate)
Rep. Brandon Peterson, R-Andover (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Mark Murdock, R-Perham
Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan
Rep. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo Township (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Carol McFarlane, R-White Bear Lake
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead
Note: Rep. Tom Tilberry, DFL-Fridley lost his party's endorsement to former Rep. Connie Bernardy. Tilberry hasn't said whether he'll run in a primary.
With MPR's Tom Scheck contributing.
President Barack Obama will attend three big-ticket fundraising events during his visit to Minnesota next week, according to a campaign official.
Two smaller events at $40,000 and $50,000 a head are planned for Friday, June 1. Obama will also deliver remarks at a luncheon for approximately 100 people who've each paid $5,000 to be there, according to the official.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he will be going to the luncheon, which will be held at The Bachelor Farmer, a Minneapolis restaurant owned by his two sons.
MPR News will post more details as they become available.
All the events will be held at The Bachelor Farmer, according to a campaign official.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has hired League of Minnesota Cities lobbyist Jennifer O'Rourke to be his Chief of Staff. The hire, which was confirmed by Rybak spokesman John Stiles, is expected to be formally announced later today.
O'Rourke will succeed Jeremy Hanson, whom Rybak appointed Director of Community Planning and Economic Development.
O'Rourke has been a familiar face at the Minnesota Capitol as a lobbyist for the League of Minnesota Cities. She worked on several issues that are important to Minneapolis including state aid to cities, economic development and taxes. She also lobbied on gambling, tobacco and liquor issues for the League of Minnesota Cities. O'Rourke has been a lobbyist at the League of Minnesota Cities for roughly 10 years.
While O'Rourke has been nonpartisan during her work as a lobbyist, her family is active in DFL politics. She is married to DFL Party Chair Ken Martin.
The city of St. Paul is requesting the state allocate $27 million from an economic development fund to build a new minor league baseball stadium in downtown St. Paul.
In a letter to the Commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic Development, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said the new St. Paul Saints stadium would bring about 500 full and part-time jobs to the area. He also said the project is ready to begin construction.
"This is truly an investment in the community that will have far-reaching, positive, substantive economic impacts on the state for years to come," Coleman wrote.
Coleman's letter comes at a time when city officials across the state are eyeing a $47.5 million economic development fund that was created in this year's public works bonding bill.
Governor Dayton and GOP legislative leaders said the fund would allow state officials to decide which projects have the best merit. Officials in Mankato and Rochester are also hoping to tap the fund to help renovate convention centers in their cities. Supporters of the Southwest Light Rail proposal are also seeking the funds.
Officials with the Department of Employment and Economic Development say no timeline has been set on when the funds will be awarded. Gov. Dayton told MPR News on Friday that there are "plenty of requests" from officials from both political parties.
Here's Coleman's letter:
DFL Governor Mark Dayton has vetoed the scaled down tax bill that Republicans passed in the closing days of the 2012 session.
Dayton quietly announced his decision this afternoon, just a few hours after holding a signing ceremony for the Vikings stadium bill. In a letter to House Speaker Kurt Zellers, Dayton said the package of tax breaks for businesses would cost the state $46 million in this biennium and an additional $73 million in the next biennium.
"It has been my consistent position throughout the session that any new spending increases or tax reductions had to maintain the current budget reserve and avoiding increasing future deficits," Dayton wrote.
The bill included a one-year freeze on business property taxes, an upfront sales tax exemption for equipment purchases and increased tax credits for Angel Investment and research and development.
Republicans said providing a set of tax breaks for business was their top priority. They made the bill smaller and less expensive after Dayton vetoed an earlier version over similar concerns about cost.
The chair of the Senate tax committee, Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said the veto was terrible news for the cities and small businesses that would have benefited from the bill.
"I hoped that he would do the right for the state of Minnesota and the best interests of all these Minnesotans that will be affected by this decision," Ortman said. "Small businesses in every town in the state of Minnesota and 39 of those cities that had economic development projects were relying on him to look out for their best interests."
Zellers also responded this evening to Dayton's veto. In a post on his website, the House speaker said Dayton's commissioners suggested elements of the tax bill, "and I accommodated their suggestions in ordering members to change the bill to suit what I thought represented the Administration's wishes. It is disrespectful to then see those very things cited as reasons for Governor Dayton's veto. This disingenuous pocket veto letter erodes my trust and confidence in Governor Dayton and his Administration."
For the second time in two weeks, Senate Republicans scheduled a confirmation hearing for Minnesota Department of Health Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger and then abruptly canceled it.
The chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, announced late Wednesday that there would be a hearing at 9:00 this morning. Ehlinger was there, along with DFL members of the committee. GOP members never showed up, and a staffer announced the meeting's cancellation about an hour later.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, later explained the change of plans.
"It was just a matter of whether or not we wanted to bring up commissioners before we go, and we decided, frankly, not to," Senjem said.
The same committee postponed a confirmation hearing for Ehlinger two weeks ago, following a private meeting between Hann and DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
Earlier this year, Senate Republicans ousted Ellen Anderson, who was Dayton's choice to lead the Public Utilities Commission. At the time, GOP leaders said they had two other Dayton appointees, Ehlinger and PCA Commissioner Paul Aasen, on their watch list. Aasen recently resigned to take another job.
Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, was not pleased with today's developments. She accused GOP leaders wasting the time of everyone who showed up for a meeting that never happened.
"I think it's irresponsible, and it's happened many times this session unnecessarily," Sheran said.
Several members of the Minnesota House gave their farewell speeches earlier this morning. Some of the members served only 1 term. Others served for two decades.
Here's the list (in order of speeches):
Rep. Marion Greene, DFL-Minneapolis
Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove
Rep. Kate Knuth, DFL-New Brighton
Rep. Mike LeMieur, R-Little Falls
Rep. Denise Dittrich, DFL-Champlin
Rep. Pat Mazorol, R-Bloomington
Rep. Larry Hosch, DFL-St. Joseph
Rep. Connie Doepke, R-Orono (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Bev Scalze, DFL-Little Canada (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood
Rep. Ron Shimanski, R-Silver Lake
Rep. Bill Hilty, DFL-Finlayson
Rep. Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville
House members who didn't give retirement speeches but have said they're retiring:
Rep. Kurt Bills, R-Rosemount (running for the U.S. Senate)
Rep. Brandon Peterson, R-Andover (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Keith Downey, R-Edina (running for Minnesota Senate)
Rep. Mark Murdock, R-Perham
Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan
Rep. Bruce Anderson, R-Buffalo Township (running for Minnesota Senate)
Update: I'm told Rep. Murdock was going to speak but had major shoulder surgery last week. He was in the chamber for the stadium vote but I'm told he was in a lot of pain so left before he could give his retirement speech.
There are also two members who lost endorsement battles who haven't said whether they'll run in a primary
DFL Rep. Tom Tilberry, DFL-Fridley
GOP Rep. Carol McFarlane, R-White Bear Lake
The Minnesota Vikings are just a step away from getting a new $975 million stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The Minnesota House of Representatives passed a stadium conference committee report this morning that would finance the new stadium.
The move comes after the Dayton Adminstration and lawmakers from both political parties held a series of closed door meetings to discuss the particulars of the final product. The plan increases the team's contribution to $477 million. The state of Minnesota would spend $348 million on the new stadium. The city of Minneapolis would spend $150 million.
Vikings fans, lobbyists and supportive lawmakers cheered and shook hands after the House passed the measure 71-60. 38 Democrats joined 33 Republicans to vote for the bill. Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said he's pleased that his seven year effort to get the Vikings stadium is coming to a close.
"We knew this was going to be a real challenge and it was," Lanning said. "But anybody who follows my career knows I have a lot of patience and perserverence."
Several critics of the bill said they were concerned about the use of public money for a profitable franchise. Others worried that the expansion of electronic pull-tabs would not produce the expected revenue to finance the stadium and the team should have kicked in more cash.
"We're growing government here and we're doing it in a very bizarre way," Rep. Doug Wardlow, R-Eagan, said. "We're funding handouts to millionaires and billionaires by taking away from those who can least afford it."
The Senate is expected to take up the conference committee later today. If that body passes the measure, it would head to Governor Dayton for his signature.
Here's the vote breakdown (provided by the Associate Press):
DEMOCRATS VOTING YES
Anzelc (Balsam Twp); Atkins (Inver Grove Heights); Benson, J. (Minnetonka); Brynaert (Mankato); Champion (Minneapolis); Dill (Crane Lake); Dittrich (Champlin); Eken (Twin Valley); Fritz (Faribault); Gauthier (Duluth); Hilstrom (Brooklyn Center); Hortman (Brooklyn Park); Hosch (St. Joseph); Johnson (St. Paul); Kath (Owatonna); Knuth (New Brighton); Lesch (St. Paul); Lillie (North St. Paul); Mahoney (St. Paul); Mariani (St. Paul); Marquart (Dilworth); Melin (Hibbing); Moran (St. Paul); Morrow (St. Peter); Murphy, M. (Hermantown); Nelson (Brooklyn Park); Norton (Rochester); Pelowski (Winona); Persell (Bemidji); Poppe (Austin); Rukavina (Virginia); Simon (St. Louis Park); Slawik (Maplewood); Slocum (Richfield); Thissen (Minneapolis); Tillberry (Fridley); Ward (Brainerd); Winkler (Golden Valley)
DEMOCRATS VOTING NO
Allen (Minneapolis); Carlson (Crystal); Clark (Minneapolis); Davnie (Minneapolis); Falk (Murdock); Greene (Minneapolis); Greiling (Roseville); Hansen (South St. Paul); Hausman (St. Paul); Hilty (Finlayson); Hornstein (Minneapolis); Kahn (Minneapolis); Laine (Columbia Heights); Lenczewski (Bloomington); Liebling (Rochester); Loeffler (Minneapolis); Mullery (Minneapolis); Murphy, E. (St. Paul); Paymar (St. Paul); Scalze (Little Canada); Wagenius (Minneapolis)
DEMOCRATS NOT VOTING
Huntley (Duluth); Peterson (New Hope)
REPUBLICANS VOTING YES
Abeler (Anoka); Anderson, P. (Starbuck); Beard (Shakopee); Cornish (Vernon Center); Davids (Preston); Doepke (Orono); Fabian (Roseau); Garofalo (Farmington); Gottwalt (St. Cloud); Gunther (Fairmont); Hamilton (Mountain Lake); Hoppe (Chaska); Howes (Walker); Kelly (Red Wing); Kiel (Crookston); Kriesel (Cottage Grove); Lanning (Moorhead); LeMieur (Little Falls); McFarlane (White Bear Lake); McNamara (Hastings); Murdock (Ottertail); Murray (Albert Lea); Nornes (Fergus Falls); O'Driscoll (Sartell); Sanders (Blaine); Schomacker (Luverne); Shimanski (Silver Lake); Smith (Mound); Torkelson (Nelson Twp); Urdahl (Grove City); Vogel (Willmar); Westrom (Elbow Lake); Woodard (Belle Plaine)
REPUBLICANS VOTING NO
Anderson, B. (Buffalo Twp); Anderson, D. (Eagan); Anderson, S. (Plymouth); Banaian (St. Cloud); Barrett (Lindstrom); Benson, M. (Rochester); Bills (Rosemount); Buesgens (Savage); Crawford (Mora); Daudt (Crown); Dean (Dellwood); Dettmer (Forest Lake); Downey (Edina); Drazkowski (Mazeppa); Erickson (Princeton); Franson (Alexandria); Gruenhagen (Glencoe); Hackbarth (Cedar); Hancock (Bemidji); Holberg (Lakeville); Kieffer (Woodbury); Kiffmeyer (Big Lake); Leidiger (Mayer); Lohmer (Lake Elmo); Loon (Eden Prairie); Mack (Apple Valley); Mazorol (Bloomington); McDonald (Delano); McElfatrick (Deer River); Myhra (Burnsville); Peppin (Rogers); Petersen (Andover); Quam (Byron); Runbeck (Circle Pines); Scott (Andover); Stensrud (Eden Prairie); Swedzinski (Ghent); Wardlow (Eagan); Zellers (Maple Grove)
Fifty million. That's the number the state has added onto the contribution it wants from the Vikings for a new stadium in downtown. The state wants the Vikings to spend $477 million - $50 million more than the Vikings commitment to spend $427 million.
A House and Senate conference committee released the number in a joint report, set to be the subject of a commitee hearing tonight. Update: Here's the conference committee report.
You can read the report here.
Senate sponsor Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, has told MPR's Tom Scheck that the team has not agreed to the number. About an hour ago, the Vikings left the Governor's office through a non-public entrance and declined comment.
"They're talking with the owners and were going to proceed ahead with the conference committee," Rosen said. "We're going to meet and go through our agreement and we'll see where the Vikings land."
The original plan, released March 1, had the state building and owning a $975 million, fixed roof stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
The state would have paid $398 million, paid for by taxes on new, expanded gambling including electronic pull tabs and bingo. The city of Minneapolis would have paid $150 million -- borrowed on the city's behalf by the state -- and paid it back with existing hospitality taxes.
The Vikings were to be in for $427 million up front.
Although that was only 44 percent of the construction cost, the team was also to pay $13 million a year in capital reserves and operations.
The conference committee report also gives Vikings owner Zygi Wilf the exclusive rights to a Major League Soccer franchise for five years. The team would play at the new stadium. The Senate stripped out that language last night.
It isn't clear how the night will proceed. Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said a conference committee on the bill is more likely to meet at 11pm tonight not at its scheduled 9pm. The Conference Committee has to sign off on the bill before it is sent to the House and Senate.
The House had hoped to pass the conference committee tonight. The Senate is expected to pass the conference committee report tomorrow.4 Comments)
The Minnesota Senate voted 38-28 in favor of a bill that would finance a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.
The vote came after ten hours of debate that turned personal at times.
The move now means the stadium is one step closer to becoming reality. It passed the House and Senate. The two bodies will now have to reconcile their differences on the bill.
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, the bill's chief author, said the stadium issue has been a work in progress for 12 years. Rosen said this session's bill is the best plan to date.
"Is there room for improvement? Absolutely there is," Rosen said. "But it has been the product of a bipartisan working group in play for the last 18 months."
But critics complained that the electronic pull-tab plan that finances the state's portion of the stadium will never materialize.
Opponents said the state was falling victim to extortion by professional football, and suggestions the team might leave Minnesota. Others like Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said the NFL has a messed up economic system, and Minnesota shouldn't be playing along with it. Marty said the public subsidy is too big.
"Even if you feel we have no choice and we've got to play along, I seriously question the wisdom of saying we have to offer the all time, number one, biggest taxpayer subsidy for any professional sports franchise in any sport in history," Marty said.
A joint House/Senate conference committee will now debate the merits of each bill. The House members on the conference committee are Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, Rep. Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska and Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-Mankato. The Senate members are Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria and Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth.
No word on when the conference committee will start working.
Here's how the votes broke down by party (via The Associated Press):
ST. PAUL (AP) _ Votes Tuesday as the Senate, on a 38-28 vote, approved a measure to finance a new Vikings stadium. Voting yes were 22 Democrats and 16 Republicans. Voting no were 8 Democrats and 20 Republicans.
DEMOCRATS VOTING YES
Bakk (Cook); Bonoff (Minnetonka); Cohen (St. Paul); Goodwin (Columbia Heights); Harrington (St. Paul); Higgins (Minneapolis); Kelash (Minneapolis); Koenen (Clara City); Langseth (Glyndon); Latz (St. Louis Park); Metzen (South St. Paul); Pappas (St. Paul); Reinert (Duluth); Rest (New Hope); Saxhaug (Grand Rapids); Sheran (Mankato); Sieben (Newport); Skoe (Clearbrook); Sparks (Austin); Stumpf (Plummer); Tomassoni (Chisholm); Wiger (Maplewood)
DEMOCRATS VOTING NO
Dibble (Minneapolis); Dziedzic (Minneapolis); Eaton (Brooklyn Center); Hayden (Minneapolis); Lourey (Kerrick); Marty (Roseville); McGuire (Falcon Heights); Torres Ray (Minneapolis)
REPUBLICANS VOTING YES
Carlson (Bemidji); Fischbach (Paynesville); Gimse (Willmar); Howe (Red Wing); Ingebrigtsen (Alexandria); Jungbauer (East Bethel); Koch (Buffalo); Magnus (Slayton); Michel (Edina); Miller (Winona); Nelson (Rochester); Nienow (Cambridge); Pederson (St. Cloud); Robling (Jordan); Rosen (Fairmont); Senjem (Rochester)
REPUBLICANS VOTING NO
Benson (Ham Lake); Brown (Becker); Chamberlain (Lino Lakes); Dahms (Redwood Falls); Daley (Eagan); DeKruif (Madison Lake); Gazelka (Brainerd); Gerlach (Apple Valley); Hall (Burnsville); Hann (Eden Prairie); Hoffman (Vergas); Kruse (Brooklyn Park); Lillie (Lake Elmo); Limmer (Maple Grove); Newman (Hutchinson); Ortman (Chanhassen); Parry (Waseca); Thompson (Lakeville); Vandeveer (Forest Lake); Wolf (Spring Lake Park)
REPUBLICANS NOT VOTING
The Minnesota Senate first overturned 18 months of negotiations, then flipped back tonight.
Senators adopted a "user fee" proposal offered by John Howe, R-Red Wing, thanks to a last-minute switch by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove. The Senate adopted the Howe plan 34-33.
Here was the vote:
Then, minutes later, led by Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, the Senate decided to reconsider the measure. After the most impassioned debate of the 9-hour discussion, the Senate returned to the electronic pull tab plan. The Howe plan went down, 30-35, in the reconsideration vote.
Here's the board for that tally:
It may have been the most dramatic 40 minutes of the stadium debate thus far -- only to leave the bill where it started.(2 Comments)
After eight and a half hours of debate, the Minnesota House passed a bill that would finance a new football stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.
The House passed the measure 73-58. Here's the roll call:
The debate mostly focused on whether the investment was worth keeping the team in Minnesota.
"The fans want us to do something," Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, said.
Other stadium supporters expressed concern the Vikings could leave Minnesota if a new stadium wasn't built. A few also said the bill will help jump start a struggling construction sector.
"We need to put our state to work," Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth said. "Today it's about putting food on the table."
But critics say a new stadium won't result in much economic benefit for the state. Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud, also said the NFL monopoly is forcing lawmakers to make bad choices.
"We had patient lobbyists out there for weeks and months," Banaian said. "It was when (NFL Commissioner) Roger Goodell came to town and that's what made it happen for you because they came and said 'Nice team you got here. Shame if something happens to it.'"
Other opponents questioned whether the revenue source, the authorization of electronic pull-tabs, would generate enough money to pay for the new stadium.
The House did lower the state's contribution $105 million from $398 to $293 million.
Several House members say the Vikings can afford to spend more than their $427 million contribution.
Rep. Pat Garofalo laid out the new terms.
"With the changes we're putting into this bill, public support for the project will be reduced from $548 million to $443 million," Garofalo, R-Farmington, said. "Still a very generous support package from the public."
Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley wouldn't comment as to whether the Vikings would balk at the change in the team's contribution. He said last week that the team would not spend more than $427 million.
Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley said he was also pleased that the House passed the bill and was optimistic about their chances in the Senate. Bagle did express concern about the amendment that would require the Vikings to pay $105 million more for the stadium. He said that contribution would have to be lowered if the Senate passes the bill.
"We did negotiate an agreement in good faith that had the team contributing $427 million up front and $13 million a year. That is what was negotiated over a period of months. The amendment that went on that is now the House position in the bill is not workable."
Gov. Dayton said he was pleased that the House passed the bill by a wider margin than he expected. As dozens of Vikings supporters looked on in the governor's reception room, Dayton said he was pleased that 40 Democrats and 33 Republicans voted for it.
"It was a strong bipartisan vote. The voices of the people of Minnesota were heard tonight. Those of you who are here and the thousands all over the state are rejoicing this terrific vote."
The plan would also require the city of Minneapolis to spend $150 million.
The Minnesota Senate has yet to act on the bill.
The Senate could take up the bill as early as Tuesday. Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, says she expects the Senate to take up the bill tomorrow morning. The Senate is in session at 9am.
The Minnesota House is expected to vote on the Vikings stadium bill today. The vote is likely to be close and there's no certainty it will pass.
GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers' announcement last week that he won't support the bill could give political cover to other Republicans who may not want to vote for it.
The public is expected to watch the final vote closely. Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont, said last week that this is the type of issue that voters will remember in November.
Polls show most people want private funding, not public taxpayer money, to pay for the stadium.
Combine those issues and you have one of the toughest votes that lawmakers will take this session.
Here are the lawmakers I'll be watching as amendments are proposed and the board opens for the final vote.
The Minneapolis Delegation
MPR's Tim Pugmire did a good job of detailing how many members of the Minneapolis delegation don't support the Vikings stadium plan. Watch to see if some people in the delegation start indicating support. It has a stronger shot if a few, like Rep. Bobby Joe Champion, support it.
The St. Paul Delegation
There has been much hand-wringing over the past few weeks that St. Paul is getting skunked on this stadium plan. The concern is that the Target Center renovation will put the Minneapolis arena in direct competition with St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center for concerts and other events.
Watch to see if an amendment forgiving some of St. Paul's loan is adopted. There could also be amendments calling for help to build a new St. Paul Saints ballpark in downtown St. Paul. A spoonful of that sugar can help make the medicine go down for St. Paul members who are reluctant to vote for the bill.
Several House members are retiring. That means those lawmakers don't have to worry about incurring the wrath of voters in a primary or the general election. Some may want to take a stand against a stadium. Others may feel more free to vote for it. Others could also vote for it to spare the next person to hold the seat from facing the issue. The stadium faces longer odds if a few of them balk at backing the bill.
Both parties are keying in on several lawmakers in November. Watch and see how they vote on amendments. If those individuals vote against amendments supported by the bill's authors and the Vikings, they may be getting feedback that says their constituents don't support the stadium. The opposite may be true if they vote for amendments supported by the Vikings and stadium bill authors.
Here are a few of the lawmakers in this category.
Rep. King Banaian, R-St. Cloud, won a close contest in 2010 (recount close) and was on the fence about the stadium bill in November despite questioning the economics of building a new stadium.
Rep. Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, passed once on a vote in the House Government Operations Committee (he eventually vote no). It's a signal that he's conflicted on the issue. He barely won in 2010 and is being targeted by Democrats.
Other Republicans being targeted by Democrats include Rep. Bruce Vogel, R-Willmar, Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, and Rep. Dan Fabian, R-Roseau.
Rep. Kory Kath, DFL-Owatonna, and Rep. Patti Fritz, DFL-Faribault, are GOP targets. Watch to see whether DFL leaders try to protect them from a controversial vote.
There are two House pairings where incumbents from different parties will face each other in November. It's hard to see Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, voting against the bill, because he has strong labor ties. Does his November opponent, Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick, R-Deer River, vote against it to mobilize the GOP base or vote for it to signal support among the more labor friendly district?
Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, is a labor-friendly Republican who is also the Capital Investment Committee Chair, so it would be surprising if he votes against the bill. He's been paired with Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji.
Watch to see how many conservative lawmakers join Reps. Drazkowski, Buesgens, Downey and Wardlow in opposing the amendments. It's bad news for the stadium if a significant number of freshman Republicans side with them when they propose controversial amendments.
Those are my thoughts. Who are you watching?
DFL Governor Mark Dayton today vetoed a package of tax breaks for businesses that he described as "unbalanced" and "fiscally irresponsible."
Dayton vetoed the omnibus tax bill less than a day after it landed on his desk. He said he wanted to get the bill out of the way so it would not be used as a bargaining chip on other remaining issues, including Monday's House vote on the Vikings stadium bill.
Republicans called the bill their priority for the session. Dayton said he had heard the veto might cost him some stadium votes, but he said that should not be the case.
"I hope that legislators will separate the issues and see that what they're deciding next Monday is whether thousands of Minnesotans will be able to go to work and whether we'll be able to keep the Vikings here at home," Dayton said.
Dayton said he's willing to negotiate an alternative tax bill with Republicans, as long as it doesn't add future debt.
Senate Republicans issued a news release in response to Dayton's action. Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said the veto was "extremely disappointing."
"It was a political decision, not a decision based upon the future best interests of Minnesota," Senjem said. "This bill was passed with bipartisan votes in both the House and Senate and it addressed concerns raised by the Governor. Sadly, the Governor chose to kill more real jobs than the bonding bill and the stadium bill will contribute to Minnesota's economy."
It appears that legislative leaders have agreed on a $496 million public works bonding bill.
The Minnesota House was scheduled to take the bill up tonight, but sponsors yanked it at the last minute. Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, said he pulled the bill after Gov. Dayton threatened to veto it. He said the governor was concerned about the disparity in spending between the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities.
"Staff said he'd veto the bill if I didn't make MnSCU and the U of M closer," Howes said. "They said MnSCU could be a little bit larger but it has to be closer than what it is now."
The bill spends $144 million for MnSCU campuses across the state compareed to $54 million for the University. Howes said he expected to scale back funding for flood mitigation and MnSCU to make up the difference.
He insisted the bonding bill will remain at $496 million, a figure the four legislative leaders and Capital Investment experts agreed upon.
The deal comes after DFL House members repeatedly criticized Republicans for putting forward a bill that didn't spend enough and didn't have DFL input.
Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said she's pleased with the changes. She said Democrats made the decision to support the bill even if it didn't meet their initial expectations. She said a smaller bill is better than no bill at all.
"To have a year with zero means next year you have a bigger backlog than ever," Hausman said. "We thought this was the last week of session and at this point it became necessary to become a realist."
The bill spends $30 million for flood mitigation, $44 million to renovate the State Capitol, $30 million for local bridge replacement and rehabilitation, $5 million to start work on a new wing to the Sex Offender Treatment Center in St. Peter.
There is no funding for Southwest Light Rail Corridor, a new ballpark for the St. Paul Saints, the St. Cloud Civic Center, the Mayo Civic Center Expansion and the Mankato Civic Center. But the bill includes $55 million for an economic development grant program that could fund some of those projects.
Howes said the program would allow the Department of Employment and Economic Development to spend money on "four star projects" around the state. He warned, however, that the funding couldn't support all of the projects being pushed by regional communities.
"If anybody did 4th grade arithmetic, $55 million would not do all of those wonderful things that some people would like to do," he said.
Howes also said he was disappointed that his plan to spend $221 million to renovate the State Capitol was trimmed back. But he characterized it as a good start.
"We all shoot for the stars and sometimes we land on the moon," Howes said. "It gets the project going."
The House is expected to vote on the bonding bill before the Vikings bill on Monday.
Here's the initial spreadsheet released by House Republicans.
A version of the new GOP plan for a Vikings stadium has the team upping its contribution to $525 million dollars.
That's according to a document labeled "DRAFT FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES ONLY" obtained by MPR News:
House Republican caucus spokeswoman Jodi Boyne said leadership provided similar numbers to Gov. Mark Dayton when they met with him yesterday. But she said that the draft version is outdated -- and that the indeterminate contributions in a GOP plan released last night is the actual proposal.
"This is the version that Gov. Dayton asked us not to release, because we hadn't talked to all of our partners yet," Boyne said of the draft proposal. She said House Majority Leader Matt Dean would address the matter more fully today.
Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley has insisted the team's contribution is capped at $427 million, as reflected by the original stadium plan that has been the subject of several committee hearings and is awaiting votes by the House and Senate.
GOP legislative leaders released part of their stadium proposal today. The plan, which was released by House GOP leadership, calls on the state to borrow $250 million to pay for the state's portion of the stadium to be built on the Metrodome site. The city of Minneapolis would still be obligated to pay $150 million. The Vikings share of the proposal is still yet to be determined. They plan also doesn't highlight how much a roof would cost which GOP leaders say is needed. A spokeswoman for House Republicans say the plan is being formulated and warns some of the details still need to be filled in.
Republican leadership floated the plan yesterday as a better alternative than a plan that the Vikings, Gov. Dayton and a bipartisan group of lawmakers had already agreed on. That plan relied on revenue created from allowing charities to operate electronic pull tab machines in the state's bars and restaurants. GOP leaders say that plan has been criticized over the past several weeks for being unreliable.
The plan also would give the city of Minneapolis "flexibility" in future use of the convention center tax. City officials say the use of that money is critical for the state's plans to redevelop the Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
GOP leadership and the stadium bill authors met with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Vikings lobbyists to discuss the proposal. Rybak called the discussions productive.
"At least we're talking," Rybak said to reporters.
Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley said they're looking seriously at the proposal now that GOP leaders are committed to putting a roof on the stadium. He said, however, the Vikings are sticking with their plan to spend $427 million on the stadium.
That leaves a hole of roughly $150 million on the nearly $1 billion stadium plan that Gov. Dayton supports. Dayton has called on lawmakers to vote on that proposal but said this afternoon he's willing to listen to other ideas.
Here's the plan released by GOP leaders:
Gov. Mark Dayton blasted legislative Republicans this morning, calling their counter offer to his stadium plan "gamesmanship."
"Republican leaders are playing poker with thousands of Minnesota jobs that are at stake in these outcomes, while they are trying to save their own," Dayton said,
He was joined by fellow Democrats House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, who called for their bodies to take up the existing Vikings bill for a vote when they convene tomorrow -- one of only a handful of legislative meeting days they have left under state law.
Dayton also said he would be meeting with the GOP leaders at 1 p.m. today to talk over their plan. He said he'd already had a "candid" conversation with House speaker Kurt Zellers.
It might have sounded like this, the case he laid out in his office this morning:
"This is just really fundamentally wrong, and I hope the people of Minnesota will see it for what it is. After eight months of negotiations, bipartisan, two Republican authors of the bill; after four months of a bipartisan legislative working group working together, through thousands of hours of negotiations, we came forward with a proposal. It went through seven legislative committees, went through some changes, but basically the structural integrity of the project remained as it was."
"And as the Senate author said herself, two prerequisites for it were no general fund tax dollars and there would be a roof on it so it could be used year round as a people's stadium. Unbeknownst to the bill's two authors, both Republicans, the Republican leadership yesterday, the day after they were supposed to have adjourned, come forward with this hare-brained scheme, that would basically destroy the project as it was conceived, destroy it as it was funded, and for all practical purposes destroy it for this legislative session."
"The Vikings oppose it, the city of Minneapolis opposes it, I oppose it. And here we are with no time left in the session and they don't even have a firm proposal."
House Majority Leader Matt Dean said the state should only commit to the project from the "turf down," as in infrastructure and utilities only.
Dayton countered the general fund financing in the GOP plan saying Minnesotans don't want it: "Polls show... people don't support it if their tax dollars are going for it. And they support it if they realize their tax dollars are not."
He also dismissed suggestions that the stadium project could be done in phases -- a stadium first and a roof later.
"We have a consultant who has worked on a number of stadiums around the country, and the financing of them," Dayton said. "And he's not aware of any stadium that was "roof ready" that ever had a roof added to it. Why wouldn't you do it all in one piece and get it right? When will the time come to get the public support, political support, legislative support to put another $100 million, $120 million into putting a roof on? And until that happens, you have a stadium sitting empty for 355 days a year."
Republican leaders are scheduled to talk more about their plan after meeting with Dayton. But it may be a difficult conversation with the governor. House GOP spokeswoman Jodi Boyne, speaking after Dayton's press conference, called his remarks "really unfortunate."
Republican leaders in the Minnesota Legislature say they're moving forward with an alternative stadium plan that borrows state general fund money to pay for the state's portion of a stadium with no roof.
Republicans wouldn't say how much the state would borrow, how the bonds would be financed or what the state would pay for in terms of infrastructure. But Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said the plan has more support among Republicans than the stadium agreement reached by the Vikings, a bipartisan group of legislators and Governor Dayton.
"This is yet another plan," Zellers said. "As I said all along, before you know what plan hits the floor, it's actually too early to say, but in concept I do think this is a good idea based on how much member support it has."
The plan would also require a super majority to pass because it would be included in a public works bonding bill. Vikings lobbyists say they oppose the idea.
Governor Dayton and DFL legislative leaders also criticized Republicans for not voting on the stadium bill that is already before the House and Senate. Several Democrats said they believed Republicans were trying to "kill the stadium bill" for the year.
"This is some kind of an endgame gimmick," DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk said. "I expect that they probably are going to throw this Hail Mary out there and probably plan to go home. This will be the largest do-nothing Legislature in state history."
From Tim Pugmire and Tim Nelson
Gov. Mark Dayton says he was very disappointed to learn today that secret negotiations were underway between House Republicans and the Minnesota Vikings on an alternative stadium plan.
Dayton said a Vikings official confirmed to him that the new plan would use general obligation bonds for a roof-less stadium. During an afternoon news conference, Dayton said he thought Republicans were trying to score political points rather than resolve the stadium issue.
"The day after the Legislature was supposed to go home, they come out with a brand new financing that totally revamps it, that totally changes it from what it was intended to be, a people's stadium, to something else. It's just really hard to take this seriously."
Dayton again urged the House and Senate to vote soon on the bipartisan stadium bill that has already cleared all committees.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, walking into a meeting with Senate leaders, said he wasn't familiar with the proposal. He wouldn't speculate about whether it could pass in the House.
"I have no idea," Zellers said. "This is just another idea. It's that time of the session. Things, new ideas pop up. I haven't seen any of the details."
Senate stadium bill sponsor called the plan "a little bit of a surprise." She said it wasn't a viable deal, as far as she was concerned.
"There are some very key parts to this stadium deal. No. 1, it has to have a roof, whether its retractable or its fixed. This is the People's stadium. This should be able to be used by the high school football and soccer leagues, and the St. Thomas baseball team for spring practice. And we should be able to have a Super Bowl and the Final Four, and all those above. This is truly a stadium that has to have a roof. It could be on a little later, as long as its prepared."
MPR News did obtain the outlines of the proposal:
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says Republican legislative leaders have not yet responded to the tax bill offer he presented to them yesterday.
Dayton told reporters today that his proposal includes a tax credit for employers who hire people who are currently out of work or veterans, an upfront rebate for business equipment purchases and additional funding for the state's angel investor program. But Dayton did not include the business property tax reduction that Republicans want. He said the GOP plan would "rob from the financial future of the state."
"In 14 years, it would cost the state $2.3 billion in revenue," Dayton said. "That's just fundamentally unfair to future legislatures and governors, as well as the fact that it's all focused on business property tax relief."
House and Senate Republicans have already agreed on a tax bill that includes the property tax provision for businesses. Lawmakers could vote on that bill any day.
Dayton said he was fine with the Legislature remaining in session as long as necessary to complete work on its three unresolved issues. Lawmakers missed their self-imposed April 30 deadline for adjournment. In addition to the tax bill, they have not yet taken votes on a bonding bill or a Vikings stadium bill. Dayton said he doesn't want the disagreements over taxes to hold up the other two issues.
"The stadium bill deserves an up or down vote," he said. "The bonding bill bill deserves an up or down vote, and if they want to do a tax bill up or down vote, fine. Let's put everyone on the line, have up or down votes on the three remaining measures and then everybody can go home."
Dayton stressed that the bonding bill and stadium bill would result in thousands of needed jobs for construction workers. Republicans want to boost job growth through tax breaks for businesses.
The biggest hang up in end of session budget negotiations between Gov. Dayton and GOP legislative leaders is the Tax bill. Republicans have passed a conference committee report that provides a mix of business tax cuts (You can read more about the plan here). Democrats have proposed a counter offer to Republicans that would create $51 million in one-time tax cuts in the current budget cycle.
The debate over taxes highlights a debate over the best way to manage the state's fiscal policy over the short and long-term.
Democrats argue that passing the GOP Tax bill will only cause problems for the state's long-term budget future budget without any guarantee that the plan will create jobs in Minnesota.
"This is really giving hundreds of millions of dollars away to big corporations," DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said.
Republicans are arguing that their tax bill will end up paying for itself.
Rep. Greg Davids, R-Spring Valley, says the plan would give property tax relief for businesses across Minnesota.
"There's property tax relief in this bill for every business," Davids said. "From 3M to Big Bob's Eatery in Spring Valley."
The only problem is that the GOP plan would create a budget hole of $52 million in the current budget cycle and a $139 million hole in the next budget cycle. Since February, Dayton has said he won't support any tax cuts that aren't offset by another revenue increase. He's worried that the so-called tails from the GOP tax bill will create bigger budget problems in the future.
"I think taking $145 million as the current proposal proposes out of the next biennium and and adding that amount to the projected $1.1 billion deficit is fiscally unsound and unwise," Dayton said.
The problem for Republicans is that they aren't willing to find other revenue to pay for their tax cuts. Dayton has pushed to close so-called tax loopholes on corporations that operate overseas and to create the so-called Amazon tax that requires online retailers that don't have operations in Minnesota to pay sales tax on Minnesota-based purchases. Neither plan gained much traction in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Instead, Republicans have decided to use the state's budget reserve to pay for the tax breaks in the current budget cycle and hope the state's financial picture improves enough that the tax break to businesses don't add to the projected deficit in the next budget cycle.
The difference in opinion is both financial and political. Republicans have argued that the state's financial picture is improving and point to an increase in tax collections over the past few months. Gov. Dayton has argued that the state's budget is already out of balance and adding another tax break will only exacerbate the problem. Davids, who chairs the House Tax Committee, said he believes his tax bill will encourage businesses to invest more money in their businesses.
"This tax bill will create more jobs than a bonding bill and a Vikings stadium combined," Davids said.
Dayton has argued that passing a public works bonding bill and a Vikings stadium will have a more immediate impact on the state's economy since there is high unemployment in the state's construction sector.
The other major issue of politics.
Republicans are also looking for a victory heading into November. Every member of the Legislature is on the ballot this year and the GOP talking points over the past two years have focused on cutting regulations and taxes. Dayton isn't on the ballot and has less urgency on the issue.
Republicans have yet to respond to the DFL offer. House and Senate officials say they intend to take up the GOP Tax bill on Tuesday.(1 Comments)
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says he's not ready to comment on a package of tax policy changes that Republican lawmakers finalized over the weekend.
Dayton told reporters this morning that he had not yet analyzed the bill, and he expected it to be addressed during an afternoon negotiation session with GOP leaders. The tax bill includes several provisions aimed at helping businesses, including a freeze on the statewide business property tax. Dayton did say that would be a problem.
"Property tax increases have also hit homeowners and farmers and renters and senior citizens, and they're nowhere in the bill as I understand it," Dayton said. "So, I have problems with singling out one group: businesses, even though they certainly have a case to make about property tax increases. But so does everyone else in Minnesota."
Still, Dayton indicated he was willing to try to find some middle ground and compromise on a tax bill. But he stressed that Republican leaders must do the same.
Dayton also had little to say about the Vikings stadium bill, which is awaiting action on the House and Senate floors.
"It's still breathing, and they're still in session," he said. "So anything can happen if we get our minds together and decide we can work this out."
The governor's most specific comments came during an explanation of his weekend veto of legislation to allow the sale and use of more kinds of fireworks in the state.
Dayton said he understands that many people supported the bill, but there were just too many health and public safety officials lined up against it. He said he decided more fireworks would be unwise for Minnesota.
"They may be fun, but they're also dangerous. I don't want somebody's eye put out, somebody's hand blown off. I don't want it on my conscience that I opened that door and resulted in that kind of casualty or even fatalities."
The House and Senate are expected to vote on a tax bill today that would cut business taxes. The measure pays for the cut by relying on money that isn't guaranteed to be there.
The plan agreed on by a House/Senate conference committee freezes the statewide business property tax, creates a tax break for investors in new businesses and provides an upfront sales tax exemption for businesses that buy new capital equipment. It also includes Gov. Dayton's initiative to provide a tax credit to businesses that hire veterans.
"We're hopeful the governor will sign it," Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen said.
That's a big question mark, since Gov. Dayton has repeatedly said that he wants any spending, including tax cuts, to be offset in some way.
In the tax bill, Republicans are betting that the economy will continue to improve, which would mean more tax revenue to the state.
The plan directs Minnesota Management and Budget to book higher than expected tax collections from February and March to pay for the changes. Typically, lawmakers rely on the February revenue forecast as they make tax and spending decisions, not the partial information that comes from monthly tax reports.
Several budget analysts say the April Economic Update, which GOP leaders cite as evidence they can pay for the bill, doesn't provide a full picture of the state's budget because it focuses on tax revenues and not the spending side of the ledger.
The bill would also pit tax cuts for businesses against school funding. That's because current law says any surplus money from the November forecast would be used to pay back a K-12 school payment delay. This bill short-circuits that process by capturing tax revenue that hasn't been recorded in the forecast yet.
"We have the authority in the law to bring that back earlier by statute if the governor signs it," Ortman said.
Another hurdle is convincing Dayton to sign a bill that would create a deficit of $145 million in the next biennium.
Republicans are pinning their hopes that Dayton wants a Vikings stadium bill and is willing to give up on his pledge to not increase the deficit to get it.
GOP legislative leaders have said repeatedly that the Vikings stadium should not be linked to any other issues, but they moved off that talking point on Saturday. They now say their top priority is enacting a tax bill.
The proposal includes several tax cuts that have been pushed by business groups. In addition to the freeze on business property taxes, it extends and expands a tax break for companies that establish data centers in Minnesota. It also includes a tax break for the Mall of America expansion and it exempts the city of Woodbury from getting voter approval to build the Bielenberg Sports Center. A tax break for breweries has also been expanded and extended. That measure came at the request of St. Paul-based Summit Brewing.
The top Republican in the Minnesota Senate has canceled plans for a rare Sunday floor session to take up the Vikings stadium bill.
Majority leader Dave Senjem said the Sunday session is no longer needed because the attention has now shifted to completing a bonding bill and tax bill before the end of the 2012 session, which could be as soon as Monday.
"The whole focus now is on a tax bill, and we're going to stay on that," Senjem said. "If we can move through that with some success we can start thinking about the stadium. But Right now, our goal is certainly the tax bill, and secondarily if we can make some progress with the governor's office on the bonding bill."
Senjem said he was disappointed that there were no negotiations with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton on Saturday. He said House and Senate negotiators planned to wrap up a tax bill over the weekend, with or without Dayton's input. Senjem said the full Senate could vote on the bill Monday.
A game and fish bill that raises new revenue for the Department of Natural Resources is on its way to Governor Mark Dayton, who is expected to sign the measure.
The House and Senate gave final approval to the bill tonight. It includes higher fees for hunting fishing and trapping that many outdoor groups say are needed and long overdue. But several lawmakers objected to the fee increases. Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, said she would have otherwise supported the bill.
"We have $10 million of tax increases on Minnesota's hunters and anglers in this bill," Melin said. "You can call it fees, but it's tax increases on Minnesota's hunters and anglers. And we never got the opportunity to vote on this on th House floor. This is something that came from the Senate."
The bill also establishes a new wolf hunting season in Minnesota. The House passed the measure on a 68 to 62 vote. The Senate vote was
27 to 26 34 to 28.
Governor Dayton and DFL legislative leaders are calling on GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers to bring up the Vikings stadium bill for a vote in the Minnesota House. House Democrats say they intend to meet Zellers' demand to put up half of the votes needed for the bill to pass. Dayton said it's time to vote.
"The people of Minnesota, whether they're for the stadium or against it, deserve an up or down vote," Dayton said. "The Vikings deserve an up or down vote. The NFL deserves an up or down vote and as Commissioner Goodell made clear last week, no action is the same as a no vote."
Zellers has not said when he intends to schedule the vote on the Vikings stadium but his spokeswoman wrote on Twitter that the vote won't be today.
Dayton and legislative leaders were hoping to pass a Vikings stadium bill, a tax bill and a bonding bill before Monday's self-imposed deadline to adjourn.
Tom Bakk, the DFL Senate Minority Leader, wouldn't say how many Democrats will vote for the stadium bill in the Senate. GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said he hoped to hold the Vikings stadium vote on Sunday.
Dayton's demand came on the same day that the Taxpayers League of Minnesota held an anti-tax rally at the State Capitol.
Phil Krinkie, the president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota, said those who attended the rally in the rain and cold are sending a signal to the Legislature to keep spending in check and vote against public subsidies for a Vikings stadium and for a public works construction bill.
"I think most of the people out here really believe that the budget is balanced and their life and liberty is more important than another piece of legislation let alone a Vikings stadium or a bonding bill," Krinkie said.
The anti-tax rally wasn't the only event at the State Capitol. A group of Vikings stadium supporters also stood out the House Chambers to urge the House to vote on the bill. Some of the group, clad in Vikings gear that included helmets and swords, cheered when lawmakers said they would vote for the bill. They also chanted "Save our Team" to other members.
Several Republican state legislators attended the event but none of them spoke. Zellers says he hopes to wrap up work on Monday.
With MPR's Tim Nelson...
The Vikings stadium bill is being targeted for a Sunday vote in the Minnesota Senate.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said that was the plan after the bill was narrowly approved by the Senate Tax Committee. The committee held a nearly six hour hearing on the bill. The hearing was divisive as stadium opponents made every attempt to derail the bill.
The Senate Tax Committee approved the bill by one vote after stadium supporters urged the committee to get the bill to the Senate floor.
Senjem, who voted for the bill in committee, told reporters after the hearing that the Senate will vote on the bill regardless of whether it has enough votes to pass.
"By in large, the idea of a vote on the Minnesota Vikings this year is something we talked about for a long time," Senjem said. "Up or down, whatever people decide in terms of their views, their faith in the bill, their districts, their personal convictions."
The stadium author in the Senate, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, says she believes it has enough votes to pass.
Stadium opponents will push for changes to how the stadium is funded and aren't willing to sign off on the deal Rosen and Gov. Dayton reached with the Vikings.
Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, said he believes stadium users, not gamblers, diners or drinkers, should pay for the stadium. He backed a measure to pay for the stadium's mortgage with on-site fees.
"To me, that's a lot fairer way to do it," Marty said. "Everybody who 's using the stadium would pay for it."
Marty's effort to amend the bill in the Tax Committee failed. He and several other stadium opponents are expected to work every angle to defeat the bill on Senate floor.
The House is also ready to vote on the bill. GOP House leaders, however, won't say when that vote will be held.
GOP legislative leaders in both chambers say they hope to finish their work by Monday but members of both parties say that's becoming less likely because of the amount of work that's left to do.(1 Comments)
There won't be any breakthrough deals on the main issues being debated between Governor Dayton and legislative leaders. The Minnesota House adjourned this afternoon after doing limited work on the floor. The House is scheduled to come back in session on Saturday at 3p.m.
GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean said legislative leaders are continuing to negotiate with Gov. Dayton on a tax bill and a public works construction bill. He said the focus on negotiations is on getting a deal that Gov. Dayton will sign.
"It's like the last two minutes of a basketball game. It's a lot of starting and stopping and waiting," Dean said.
Legislative leaders have met privately with Gov. Dayton's staff throughout the day. A spokeswoman for Dayton said he did not attend any of those meetings. Dayton is scheduled to do a comedy sketch at MinnPost's fundraising event, known as MinnRoast, tonight.
It appears that we're at the point in the legislative session where legislative leaders are hoping that their opponent is the first to blink. Gov. Dayton and Democrats are pushing for a Vikings stadium and a bonding bill that spends more than $500 million.
Republicans are pushing for a tax bill that cuts business and residential property taxes.
The negotiations come at a time when GOP leaders are inching closer to a self-imposed deadline to adjourn. Dean said they're aiming to complete their work on Monday. But Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, says there isn't enough time to get all of their work done.
"It's pretty clear to me that we're going to be in session next week," Lanning said. "The Monday adjournment is unrealistic because we've got too much unfinished business that's going to take longer than that."
Lanning, co-author of the Vikings stadium bill, said it's clear GOP leaders want to get some sort of agreement on a bonding bill and a tax bill before they start plowing forward with the stadium bill.
"There has to be a resolution in sight," Lanning said. "Not that we have to have something passed but at least an agreement among the three major players here is required before we can keep moving."
And that means DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen has a bigger seat at the table. Republicans in both the House and Senate need DFL votes to pass a bonding bill. The last offer put forward by Democrats spent $686 million. Republicans countered with a $496 million bill that included more projects that could attract DFL votes. A person with knowledge of the GOP offer also said it still includes $77 million for the Capitol restoration but does not include funding for the Southwest Light Rail line or regional civic centers
Thissen said he'd like to see a bonding bill that includes funding for downtown regional centers, the Southwest LRT and more money for higher education. Thissen wouldn't commit to how much he'd like to see spent from the bonding bill.
"It depends on what projects are in there and then the size of the bill depends on what projects fit within it," Thissen said.
The debate over the Tax bill and bonding bill is being held at the same time as the Senate Tax Committee is discussing the Vikings stadium bill. If the committee approves the bill, it would be the last committee stop before the bill is considered by the full Senate.
Minnesota Management and Budget released a report that details how much money has yet to be spent from past bonding bills. The report says $1.5 billion has yet to be spent on projects. The report comes at a time when Gov. Dayton is negotiating the importance of a new bonding bill with legislative leaders.
The report, which was released at the request of MPR News, shows that hundreds of millions of dollars have yet to be spent on projects that are either in progress or haven't started yet.
Republicans in the House and Senate have suggested that they don't need to do a large bonding bill this session because there are plenty of unspent funds from past bonding bills. They started making the claims after Gov. Dayton and other Democrats said a bonding bill was need to boost hiring in the construction sector (MPR wrote about this issue last week).
The bonding bill is one of the key items being negotiated among legislative leadership. House and Senate Democrats have suggested the state spend $686 million on a bonding bill that includes $77 million for the State Capitol renovation. Republicans countered with a $496 milion bill that now includes projects favored by Democrats.
Here's the report from MMB:1 Comments)
Republican and DFL legislative leaders held another private meeting this morning to discuss some of the remaining business of the 2012 session, including a bonding bill and some proposed tax policy changes.
The meeting took place in DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's office, but a spokesman said the governor did not attend. Dayton was was represented in the discussion by his key advisors.
The brief meeting did not produce any breakthroughs. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, said they planned to keep talking, but they did not set a specific time to resume negotiations.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, described the meeting as "trading volleys."
"We've just got to take a look at what we've got and decide whether or not there's another volley," Senjem said. "So, we'll see."
The House and Senate both have floor sessions scheduled later today. The Senate tax committee is also holding a hearing on the Vikings stadium bill.
Senate Republicans have postponed a confirmation hearing for Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger.
The abrupt change in plans came after a private meeting this morning between Gov. Mark Dayton and the chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Priaire.
Dayton then released a statement thanking Hann.
"I am deeply grateful to Senator Hann for his very gracious willingness to postpone Commissioner Ehlinger's confirmation hearing," Dayton said. "It is a responsible and commendable resolution, for which he deserves full credit."
Earlier this year, Senate Republicans ousted Ellen Anderson, who was Dayton's pick to chair the Public Utilities Commission. At the time, GOP leaders said they had two other Dayton appointees, Ehlinger and PCA Commissioner Paul Aasen, on their watch list.
It's unclear if the Senate now plans to take up any confirmations before the anticipated adjournment of the session on Monday.
Republicans in the House and Senate have signed off on a Game and Fish bill that would raise fees on hunting and fishing licenses. Rep. Dennis McNamara, R-Hastings, says the joint House/Senate Conference Committee agreed to raise the individual, annual fishing license $5. He said the fees will help the Department of Natural Resources manage hunting and fishing issues in Minnesota.
"It's a good thing to allow the DNR to continue to good stuff around fishing and hunting," McNamara said. "It's been 11 years so they're pretty stretched to their limit right now. They and we need this increase to continue the good things that they do.
The bill also establishes a wolf hunt in Minnesota that allows the Department of Natural Resources to issue 6,000 permits to kill up to 400 wolves a year. The conference committee also declined to make an earlier fishing opener for this year. The House and Senate have to vote on the bill before it heads to Governor Dayton's desk.
The Minnesota House passed a bill that would allow local school districts to fire teachers on performance instead of seniority. The House took the action even though Governor Dayton has suggested that he'll veto it. Supporters of the measure say it's needed to ensure the best teachers stay in the classroom.
Rep. Brandon Petersen, R-Andover, said Governor Dayton and others were defending the state's teacher's unions. He suggested they're on the wrong side of public opinion.
"You're standing against an overwhelming tide of change and all you're doing is placing your fingers into the dam," Petersen said. "But it will crack in another place and it will come through because the taxpayers will demand accountability for the largest investment in this country and they're demanding accountability for their kids."
Current law says schools must only consider teacher seniority when making layoffs unless local districts negotiate other policies.
Critics say the performance measurements in the bill are new and too subjective.
Rep. Jim Davnie, R-Minneapolis, said the bill had problems because it focuses solely on teacher performance.
"This bill allows weak administrators with unknown qualifications to keep their jobs and make the decisions as to which teachers get laid off," Davnie said.
The Senate is expected to pass the bill and send it to Governor Dayton. Dayton has suggested that he will veto the bill.
The chair of the Senate Tax Committee has not scheduled a hearing on the Vikings stadium issue. Sen. Julianne Ortman,R-Chanhassen, said yesterday that she wanted to hold a hearing in her committee on the bill.
Ortman, who said she's not a "big fan of stadiums", hasn't scheduled a hearing on the bill yet. She told reporters that she's unlikely to hold a hearing on the stadium until Republicans reach a deal with Governor Dayton on an overall tax bill.
"I wouldn't call it hostage taking but you know we post hearings when we're ready to have the hearings," Ortman said. "We have staff that are working really hard on putting together an omnibus tax bill and arranging for conference committees and we can only do so much at any time so that's what we're working on right now."
The Senate Tax Committee will be the last stop for the bill before it heads to the Senate floor for a vote. The House is set to vote on the bill, but Republican Speaker Kurt Zellers wouldn't say when the vote will happen.
Update: Ortman scheduled a Friday hearing at 3pm on the stadium bill.
Efforts to create an earlier primary in the state Legislature have fizzled tonight after a joint House/Senate conference committee stripped the measure from a broader elections bill.
The bill would have changed the state's political primary from August until June. The six member conference committee stripped the language from the bill after the Senate firmly rejected the plan earlier this week.
It means efforts to schedule an earlier primary are all but done for the year. Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, says he'll continue to push for an earlier primary.
"I will be an advocate for this issue," Daudt said. "If we don't get it through yet this session and at this point it may not be likely, we'll certainly take it up next session."
Supporters of the June primary say it would have increased voter turnout but critics complain that it would lengthen the campaign season. And since the legislative session runs until late May, critics add some state legislators would have less time to campaign. The primary language was a part of a larger elections bill.
Republican lawmakers are raising concerns about the slow pace of contract negotiations with state workers, and the potential cost of the delay.
Talks between the Dayton administration and the unions representing public employees began last spring but have not yet produced an agreement. They are now in mediation. Meanwhile, the terms of the old contracts continue. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said the delay puts taxpayers at a disadvantage.
"We have these contracts continuing on auto pilot," Drazkowski said. "On auto pilot, progression increases in steps and lanes and addition employer, i.e. taxpayer contributions to health insurance that are un-negotiated, that amount over the biennium to about $140 million."
Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, said he's convinced that both sides are "dragging their feet" to see if a more supportive DFL legislature is elected in November.
Richard Kolodziejski, public affairs director for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, said Parry is wrong.
"There has never been an intent for us to push this out this long," Kolodziejski said. "We would prefer to have a contract that both our employees that we represent can approve, and that the Legislature can approve."
Kolodziejski said he thinks Republicans are trying to impose themselves into the current negotiations and dictate the results.
Gov. Mark Dayton said negotiators are still trying to resolve some significant differences. He said he wants a contract that gives taxpayers the best value.
The University of Minnesota will soon be allowed to sell alcohol at its football stadium. The Minnesota House passed a liquor bill today by a vote of 115-13 that includes the stadium provision. Governor Dayton's office says he will sign the bill. DFL Representative Joe Atkins of Inver Grove Heights says he's pleased the five year dispute is closer to coming to an end.
"We finally reached a bipartisan stadium deal as far as an agreement goes," Atkins said. "It might not be the stadium that most people are talking about but at least we reached some sort of stadium deal relative to TCF."
The Legislature and the University of Minnesota have been at odds over selling liquor at the football stadium. The compromise will allow the U of M to sell alcohol at the stadium as long as sales are open to the general public.
The provision expires after two years and will have to be renewed by the Legislature. The bill includes a provision requiring at least one Minnesota-brewed beer be sold at the stadium.
The Minnesota Senate rejected an elections bill today that would have created an earlier primary date in Minnesota.
The Senate voted 35-30 to send the bill back to conference committee for further negotiations. The move doesn't kill the bill for the session, but it sends a signal that the Senate was not in favor of a June primary. Several senators, including Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul and Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said the June primary would create longer election seasons in Minnesota.
"What I hear when people discuss elections is that people find the length of elections tiresome," Cohen said.
Supporters say a June primary would increase voter turnout. They complained that the current August primary comes at a time when many people are vacationing.
"We all know that there's a tradition of vacationing in August," said Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka. "A June primary allows more people to participate in the process."
Bonoff also mentioned that the leaders in the DFL and Republican Parties supported the move to an earlier primary.
Today's Senate action comes several weeks after the House voted to move the primary to June. The conference committee will have to meet again to determine whether it should keep the June primary in the bill that includes several other elections issues.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he supports a June primary.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said today the Senate is paying an outside attorney $200 - $300 an hour to prepare for a lawsuit by a fired Senate staffer.
It's the first glimpse at what the Senate is paying in legal fees in a scandal involving former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Senjem and other Senate officials have refused to release details of their agreement with employment law attorney Dayle Nolan. Senjem called the amount of taxpayer dollars being paid to the lawyer "privileged information."
"There's no specific reason," Senjem said. "I'm not sure we've gotten a bill yet to be honest with you. That's perhaps part of it. You can start to count the hours maybe. A couple of hearings here and incidental consultation time with the Senate representatives."
Several Democrats have said the agreement with the attorney should be public. Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, says Senjem should disclose how much the Senate is paying Nolan. She said the Senate Secretary should release the Senate's agreement with the lawyer.
"I can't imagine why they wouldn't," Rest said. "It's a simple answer. Does an agreement exist or not? If the secretary signed it then it's a public document."
Minnesota Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman told reporters on Friday that a document exists that contains details of Nolan's hourly rate, but he refused to release it.
Former Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb is preparing to sue the Senate for gender discrimination, defamation and invasion of privacy. He said he was fired because he had an affair with Koch. Senate officials say he was legally dismissed.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton pulled out his veto pen again today, rejecting two Republican-backed bills.
Dayton vetoed one measure to modify child care assistance payments. Supporters of the bill wanted to make sure funds for state subsidized child care programs would not end up up paying the union dues of any child care providers. The bill was inspired by Dayton's failed attempt to allow a unionization vote among some in-home providers. A judge blocked the vote.
"This legislation is completely unnecessary because no union representation of child care providers exists in the State of Minnesota," Dayton wrote. "I will not support such a misguided and unnecessary effort."
Dayton also rejected a bill to prohibit the commissioner of education from enforcing unadopted rules. The governor said the measure tried to strip away powers granted to the executive branch.
Senate Republicans issued a news release on the veto of the child care fuding bill.
Sen.Ted Lillie, R-Lake Elmo, said he was surprised and disappointed by the governor's action.
"Our priority is to act as faithful stewards of taxpayer dollars and also to protect private businesses from government overreach," Lillie said. "With his veto today, the Governor does nothing to prevent unions from capturing tax payer dollars intended for the care of our children,"
In his application for unemployment benefits former Minnesota Senate staffer Michael Brodkorb said he didn't violate Senate policies or commit misconduct. His application was rejected and he has appealed. An unemployment judge held a two-hour hearing on Brodkorb's appeal this afternoon.
During the hearing, Brodkorb responded "yes" when the judge asked whether he filled out a form that said he "did not violate any internal senate politics or commit employee misconduct."
The hearing didn't discuss Brodkorb's relationship with former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, which Brodkorb says is the reason he was fired from his position. Koch resigned her leadership position on Dec.15. Brodkorb was fired the next day.
The hearing is the latest twist in a brewing legal battle between Brodkorb and the Minnesota Senate. His attorney is preparing to sue the Senate for gender discrimination and argued last Friday that Senate staffers violated his privacy rights after MPR News learned that his unemployment claim was rejected. His attorneys announced in March that they would reveal several female staffers who had affairs with male lawmakers but weren't fired.
During the hearing, Brodkorb's attorney Greg Walsh requested that he be allowed to subpoena several witnesses to discuss the rejected unemployment claim. The list includes Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman, Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, Senate Secretary Cal Ludeman, Kevin Matzek, Chief of Staff at the Senate, and current Senate staffer Steve Sviggum. Michel became acting Majority Leader after Koch stepped down. Sviggum was hired to replace Brodkorb.
Senate counsel Dayle Nolan immediately objected to the subpoena requests warning that Walsh was going on "a fishing expedition."
Judge Elizabeth Tessmer declined to act on the subpoena requests and told both sides to put their arguments in writing. She said she was going to leave the hearing open to weigh the subpoena requests.
The hearing also revealed that Koch has been communicating with Senate GOP leadership about Brodkorb's dismissal. Matzek confirmed that he, Koch and Senjem discussed on Wednesday a document submitted to the unemployment judge about Brodkorb's application. The documents are not public information, so reporters weren't able to inspect them.
The hearing also confirmed that the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development rejected Brodkorb's unemployment claim. A DEED employee said that the Senate provided no input on Brodkorb's application.
Judge Tessmer said she may hold another hearing. Her ruling is considered private information, so it may not be known how she decides the appeal.
Gov. Dayton is discussing the Vikings stadium situation with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Dayton's spokesman Bob Hume said Dayton called Goodell earlier today to discuss how the stadium issue gets resolved in Minnesota. Hume characterized it as a "sobering conversation."
"The commissioner shares the governor's sense of urgency to have the state act this year," Hume said. "The commissioner reiterated that the failure to do so would have serious consequences for both the Vikings and the NFL in general."
Hume couldn't outline what those "serious consequences" would be. Hume said Dayton, Goodell and Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney (Chair the NFL's stadium committee) will discuss the situation again in the morning.
Dayton and other stadium supporters have said that it will be difficult to revive the stadium bill this session after a committee in the Minnesota House killed the bill earlier this week.
The House Taxes Committee is scheduled to take up a bill on Thursday that was initially aimed at helping finance the stadium. Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, said he wanted the Tax Committee to act on the charitable gambling portion of the bill. He said, however, that he was open to seeing the Vikings stadium bill language amended on to the bill after the Tax Committee acts on it.
"I want to get it clean out of there (Tax Committee)," Kriesel said. "Down the road, who knows?"
Meanwhile, Rep. Tim Mahoney, DFL-St. Paul, held a news conference calling on the Vikings stadium to be built in Arden Hills.
"As a fan and a taxpayer, I recognize the need to not just find a stadium solution, but to find the right solution. A solution that will benefit Minnesota as a whole," said Rep. Mahoney in a statement. "Given the jobs it will create and the property taxes it would generate, I believe this proposal does just that."
The Vikings and Ramsey County had a deal on a new stadium but it fell apart after the GOP controlled Legislature raised several concerns over the financing plan.(1 Comments)
Gov. Dayton released his fundraising reports for the first quarter of this year. He reports raising $82,591 over the first three months of the year. He spent $63,315 and has $65,781 in the bank.
Dayton raised the bulk of his money in the first quarter from lobbyists and Political Action Committees. His report says he raised $32,540 from PACs, $18,450 from lobbyists and $31,691 from individuals.
Dayton's report also says he spent $14,000 on polling in March, $15,979 on a staff person, nearly $6,000 on printing services and $1,600 on rent at the DFL headquarters.
State law doesn't require campaign finance reports to be released for several months but Dayton has voluntarily released for this quarter. He wants to change state law to require campaigns that raise more than $5,000 to file quarterly reports. He said the measure will create greater transparency at the Minnesota Legislature.
Here's the campaign finance report filed by Dayton's campaign:
In his strongest comments to date, Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers is suggesting the Minnesota House could vote on a Vikings stadium plan before the end of session. Zellers, who has been reluctant to commit to whether the House would vote on such a plan, now says there's a likelihood it can happen. In an interview with MPR News, Zellers said the Vikings stadium bill cleared both the House Commerce Committee and the House Rules Committee in the past few weeks.
"We've said all along that if it continues to move through the process, which last week with some pretty good pace, moving through two committees in one week is a lot better pace than you've seen so far," Zellers said. "We're committed to a fair process, and if it can move along like that and continues to move along like that, I think you'll see a vote this year."
Zellers said the delay in both the House was caused by debate over whether there was a sufficient backup funding plan in place to ensure that no general fund money would go to the stadium. The more than $975 million stadium plan relies on $400 million in state funding, $150 million from the city of Minneapolis and $427 million from the Vikings. The state plan relies on money generated from allowing charities to operate electronic pull-tabs in bars and restaurants. The plan also legalizes sports-themed tip boards which would be used to give charities a tax break.
Several lawmakers, including Zellers, said they were concerned the projected annual revenue estimates from the electronic pull-tabs would never materialize. They wanted a back-up plan to ensure the state's general fund wasn't used to pay for the stadium.
The bill was changed to require other revenue sources "blink on." Those funding sources include a tax on luxury boxes, a sports-themed lottery game, an admissions tax at the stadium and reserve funds from Hennepin county sales taxes used to build Target Field.
The House Government Operations Committee is likely to hold a hearing on the bill next week. The Vikings stadium bill is currently stalled in a Senate committee but GOP leaders are working to get the bill moving.
"It's active," GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said last week. "We're trying to thread that needle."
Gov. Dayton has been pushing for the House and Senate to vote on the bill before the end of session.
Zellers comments come as the House and Senate are on a 10-day Easter/Passover break. Lawmakers return to St. Paul on Monday with the hopes of wrapping up the session by the end of the month.
It also comes as the state's two largest business groups have ramped up their lobbying for the stadium. Lobbyists for the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Business Partnership have both confirmed that they are contacting lawmakers on the stadium. Minnesota Business Partnership executive director Charlie Weaver said CEOs of EcoLab, U.S. Bancorp, Wells Fargo and General Mills have all contacted GOP leadership on the issue.
"It's not going away," Weaver said of the stadium debate. "Rep. Zellers is hearing the love of the business community for the stadium on this deal."
Weaver said the stadium also has the strong support of the state's labor unions. He said that should help deliver DFL votes to get the deal done.
House GOP leaders say they want to finish the legislative session on or before April 30 but the constitutional deadline to adjourn May 21.(2 Comments)
Posted at 9:43 PM on April 10, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Campaign 2012, Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races, Campaign 2012: Minn. Senate Races, MN Legislature, Mark Dayton, Redistricting
State Rep. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, has won a special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Gary Kubly. Koenen received 54 percent of the vote. Republican Gregg Kulberg received 40 percent and Independence Party member Leon Greenslit was third with five percent of the vote. The district includes Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Renville, Swift and Yellow Medicine counties.
Gov. Dayton called the special election to fill the vacant seat after Kubly died from ALS in March. Koenen will serve out the remainder of Kubly's term but will also challenge GOP Sen. Joe Gimse in a newly configured Senate district. A court-appointed panel paired Gimse and Kubly when they designed the new political boundaries in February.
Koenen announced he would challenge Gimse after he was paired Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock in the new political boundaries.
Update: Gov. Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci says Dayton will not call a special election to fill Koenen's seat. She said it's not possible to fill the seat this legislative session (based on timing). She said the seat will be filled on the Nov. 6 general election.(2 Comments)
Minnesota Management and Budget announced today that Minnesota's net general fund revenues in February and March are $106 million more that finance officials projected. The state agency reports that individual income tax receipts were $60 million more than forecasted in February. Sales taxes were $27 million more. Corporate income taxes were $3 million less than forecast.
Finance officials also say the U.S. is still recovering from the Great Recession but that the "U.S. economy remains fragile." Minnesota's employment has recovered more rapidly than the national average. The state's unemployment rate of 5.7 percent in February is tied with Utah and Virginia for 7th lowest rate in the nation.
State budget officials announced in February that the state had a surplus of $323 million. That surplus comes on top of an $876 million surplus released in December.
Here's the latest Economic update from MMB:
Governor Dayton has ceremoniously vetoed a proposed constitutional amendment that would require people to present a photo ID to vote. Dayton's veto won't prevent the measure from going to the voters in November but he said he's vetoing the bill because the Legislature sent it to him in bill form.
Dayton says the amendment could disenfranchise thousands of voters, including overseas military members and seniors who are unable to drive. Dayton says ending same-day registration and replacing it with a provisional balloting system could lower the state's nation-leading voter participation.
"This amendment is a proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing," Dayton said. "It goes far beyond its purported intention to require photo identification. Instead it dismantled Minnesota's best in the nation election system.
Republicans argue that the proposal is needed to ensure the integrity of the state's election system. The constitution would be amended if a majority of the ballots cast in November favor of the amendment.
Here's a statement by GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem on Dayton's veto:
"Governor Dayton's mock veto today of the Voter ID constitutional amendment is completely misleading and intervenes with a constitutional process allowed our citizens. After the historic votes in the House and Senate, Minnesotans will now have the opportunity to weigh in on whether a photo ID should be required in order to vote. The Governor's action today misleads voters by suggesting the Governor has the authority to override the legislature's right to place a question on the ballot. Governor Dayton acted today as an obstruction to the democratic process by undermining this important legislative measure."
Here's Dayton's veto letter:
A Ramsey County District Court judge has thrown out Governor Dayton's order that allowed in-home day care providers to vote on whether to unionize.
In his decision, Judge Dale Lindman ruled that Dayton exceeded his authority when he issued an executive order allowing day care providers to decide whether to join a union.
Lindman said Dayton didn't have the power to issue the executive order because the state and the day care providers don't have an employer-employee relationship. He said Dayton's order superseded the legislative process and violated the separation of powers clause in the Minnesota Constitution. The judge ruled that the power to decide whether in-home day care providers can unionize lies with the Legislature.
Conservative groups and day care providers opposed to the unionization effort are cheering the ruling.
"I can't think of a better way to celebrate Easter than knowing that Judge Lindman upheld our rights and freedoms as independent licensed family child care providers," Hollee Saville said in a statement. "I'm jumping up and down right now and am thrilled that the time and efforts that childcare providers have dedicated to this very important cause over the past several years have paid off."
A spokeswoman for Dayton said Dayton is disappointed with the decision. She said they're reviewing the order and aren't sure whether they'll appeal.
Here's a statement from GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers:
Today's decision from Ramsey County Judge Dale Lindman is a victory for child care providers and small, independent businesses in Minnesota. It affirms what we have told Governor Dayton since he first called for the unconstitutional union election of child care providers: lawmaking is a function solely entrusted to the Minnesota Legislature. Governor Mark Dayton violated the constitutional separation of powers in calling for a union election of child care providers at the bequest of AFSCME and SEIU. I sincerely thank and congratulate the child care providers who bravely stood up to the unconstitutional overreach of Governor Mark Dayton and his union cronies. Their courage and fight will help protect small, independent businesses in Minnesota from the threat of forced, unilateral unionization in the future.
Here's a statement from Jennifer Munt, a spokesman for AFSCME Council 5, a union that supported Dayton's executive order:
"This ruling is disappointing, but not unexpected. Right-wing legislators and their tea-party allies sued to score political points. Their victory denies child care providers their democratic right to vote.
"A union exists wherever workers pull together with a common purpose. We're united to increase the quality of child care, to improve access for working parents, and to stabilize our profession. No judge or politician can stop that."
Here's the order:3 Comments)
State lawmakers are heading home for a week-long break with a bonding bill still unresolved for the 2012 session.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, rejects the notion that the bonding bill might be in trouble. He said the delay is the result of a busy schedule of floor votes on other bills. But House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, offered a different explanation. Dean suggested that movement on the bonding bill was contingent on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's willingness to bargain on other issues.
"I know a lot of our members are very, very interested in having the governor sign some reform bills before we take up the bonding bill," Dean said. "They'd like to see some more work product out of the governor. They want to see some yeses from the governor before taking up that bill. So, there's going to be more of an will be more of an appetite for that when we start to see some yeses from Gov. Dayton."
Republicans are hoping for Dayton's support on several tax proposals, including a phase-out of the statewide business property tax. But Dayton has raised concerns about the fiscal impact of both the House and Senate tax bills.
Governor Dayton has vetoed a bill that would have used a portion of the state's budget reserves to start paying back delayed state payments to schools. The Republican controlled Legislature sent Dayton the bill that would have tapped $430 million from the state's budget reserve to pay back a portion of the delay. Republican leaders said they wanted to put a priority on paying back the schools. But Dayton said today using that money could have forced the state to borrow to pay its bills.
"As elected officials we are responsible for the wise financial management of our state," Dayton said. "Our first priority should be assuring state government's financial stability. This bill would significantly increase that risk."
Finance officials said the state is already facing cash flow problems this fall and that taking $430 million from the reserves would have made the problem worse.
Republicans say they're disappointed with Dayton's veto. They said the state managed to pay its bills in the past with a budget reserve that is much smaller than the current one.
Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, said Dayton's veto signals a deep divide over taxes and spending between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature.
"He's got an approach that is tax and spend and borrow," Ortman said. "In this year, he still wants to raise taxes, he wants to spend more with a supplemental budget and he wants to borrow more with a great, big fat bonding bill and he doesn't want to pay back the borrowing from last year That is a very stark contrast from where we are at now."
Dayton and the Legislature agreed last July to delay more than $2 billion in payments to schools and borrow $700 million in future tobacco payments to balance the budget.
The Minnesota House passed legislation today that includes a provision that would shift the August primary to early June. The House approved the change by a 66-65 vote. The measure was amended to a broader elections bill that also passed.
The backers of the June primary say it will increase voter turnout.
"This is good government because it will increase participation in the primary," said Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. "I think that our August primary is a time when we are on vacations and not really attuned to what's going on with the primary elections."
Several critics said a June primary will force incumbent state lawmakers to focus more on running for re-election instead of doing legislative work. Others complained that it would lengthen the campaign season.
"This will go to perpetual campaigning, ongoing elections and increased costs," said Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul. "Those with means will run for office. Those who don't have the means will struggle."
The Senate would need to go along with the change. Gov. Dayton's spokeswoman, Katharine Tinucci, said Dayton has long supported moving the primary to June. If the proposal is enacted, it would take effect in 2013.
Negotiations on a teacher tenure bill are expected to wrap up later today after a last ditch effort to get DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's support failed.
The Republican co-chairs of the conference committee on the bill met privately with Dayton but were unable to win his support. They say he instead promised a veto. The bill makes sure teacher layoffs are based partially on job performance, not just seniority. Republican Sen. Pam Wolf, R-Spring Lake Park, said the bill enjoys broad support from many education organizations.
"The only ones who opposes this bill is Education Minnesota, the commissioner and the governor," Wolf said. "I've had no other opponents to this bill. As a teacher, it's frustrating that we're going to continue to tell teachers it doesn't matter how good you are in the classroom. It matters when you signed your contract."
Gov. Dayton said he shares Wolf's goal, but he wants more time for a new statewide teacher evaluation system to take shape.
A joint House/Senate Conference Committee has agreed to use $430 million from the state's budget reserves to start paying back a payment delay to K12 schools. A spokesman for the House GOP Caucus said the conference committee wrapped up the report tonight after the House agreed to drop policy provisions in the bill.
"We want to make it as easy as possible for Governor Dayton to sign this bill," Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said in a statement. "Removing the LIFO (Last In First Out) provisions from the House File and the policy from the Senate File will give him a clean bill to repay the shift that he can sign."
Republicans have been eager to start paying back a school shift plan that was used in July to erase part of the state's $5 billion budget deficit. The state will still owe roughly $2 billion to K12 schools if the plan is enacted into law.
Gov. Dayton and Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter have criticized the plan to tap the budget reserve to start paying back the school shift. Schowalter has said that tapping the budget reserve could lead to cash flow problems for the state in the coming months.
MMB released a cash flow report that showed the state could have difficulty paying its bills in September and October even if Gov. Dayton vetoes the Republican legislation to tap the budget reserves.
The House and Senate would have to each pass the conference committee report before it heads to Gov. Dayton.
The Minnesota Senate passed a bill today that would allow the University of Minnesota to sell alcohol at college football games. Right now there is no liquor sold at the stadium and the measure would end a long-running dispute between the University of Minnesota and the State Legislature.
The U of M and the Legislature have been at odds over where and how the U of M could sell alcohol during its games. The university wanted to sell alcohol only in suites but lawmakers complained that anyone over the age of 21 should be allowed to purchase alcohol.
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, added the amendment to a broader liquor bill. He said the proposal has the support of both sides.
"I would present it as peace in the valley," Michel said.
The proposal requires that the U of M sell the alcohol in a place that is convenient to everyone and that those legal to purchase alcohol have access to the area. Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said the measure would ensure that those who legally allowed to drink alcohol can purchase it at the game.
"Part of the problem at TCF Stadium is that maybe when it was built it wasn't set up to be serving alcohol in the way that we would be normally be used to in a football stadium," Tomassoni said. "This compromise allows them to set it up in a way that it will work there."
The measure would also allow alcohol to be sold at Minnesota Vikings games played at TCF stadium.
Senate Republicans have proposed a public works bill that spends $561 million on projects throughout Minnesota. The plan focuses mostly on local projects throughout the state including $39 million for the University of Minnesota. $127 million for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, $30 million for flood mitigation, $25 million for a new building at the Minneapolis Veterans Home and funding for the Hormel Institute, the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester and St. Cloud Civic Center. (Full spreadsheet below)
The Senate also spends dramatically less that House Republicans on renovating the State Capitol. House Republicans are proposing to spend $221 million to renovate the Capitol. The Senate bill spends $25 million.
The House has two bonding bill proposals moving. The $221 million for the State Capitol Renovation and a $280 million borrowing plan for local projects.
The plan is also smaller than Gov. Dayton's plan that borrows $775 million.
Here's a breakdown of the projects in the Senate bill ($561 million total cost. State's general fund obligation is $462m)
University of Minnesota $39,060,000
-$35 million for asset preservation
Minnesota State Colleges and Universities 127,028,000
-$32 million for asset preservation
-$5.9 million for Anoka/Ramsey Community College Coon Rapids
-$13.3 million for workforce program renovation at Minneapolis Technical College
-$26 million for North Hennepin Community College Bioscience and Health Careers Addition
-$13.8 million for lab renovation at Ridgewater College, Willmar
Department of Education 1,000,000
Minnesota State Academies 1,000,000
-Perpich Center for Arts Education 263,000
Natural Resources 56,000,000
-$30 million for flood hazard mitigation
-$6 million to fight invasive species
-$5 million to develop the Lake Vermilion State Park
Pollution Control Agency 5,256,000
Board of Water and Soil Resources 12,000,000
Rural Finance Authority 33,000,000
Zoological Garden 7,000,000
-$25 million for State Capitol Renovation
-$5 million for Washburn Center for Children
Amateur Sports 375,000
Military Affairs 25,000,000
-$19.5 million for addition to Camp Ripley
Public Safety 4,037,000
-$20m local bridge renovation
-$14.2 million local road improvement grantss
Metropolitan Council 12,850,000
Human Services 2,500,000
Veterans Affairs 29,816,000
-$25.4 million for a Minneapolis Veterans Home building.
Employment and Economic Development 77,850,000
-$13.5 million for Hormel Institute
-$10 million for the St. Cloud Civic Center Expansion
-$32 million for Mayo Civic Center Expansion in Rochester
Public Facilities Authority 24,850,000
-$20 million for Wastewater Treatment.
Housing Finance Agency 6,000,000
Minnesota Historical Society 3,250,000
Bond Sale Expenses 560,000
TOTAL $ 561,159,000
Bond Proceeds Fund (General Fund Debt Service) 462,283,000
Bond Proceeds Fund (User Financed Debt Service) 64,676,000
State Transportation Fund Bond Proceeds (General Fund Debt
Here's the spreadsheet:2 Comments)
Gov. Dayton is criticizing Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature for putting measures on the ballot that they couldn't get signed into law. Speaking at a rally held by the National Association of Social Workers, Minnesota Chapter, Dayton said he doesn't support the Legislature's focus on constitutional amendments.
"This is supposed to be the center of democracy for the state of Minnesota," Dayton said. "That involves the give and take between the legislative branch and the executive branch. It doesn't mean going around a governor because I can't veto a constitutional amendment and putting constitutional amendments on the ballot that the DFLers don't have anything to say about."
He said he was especially concerned about amendments "that would take away people's rights."
Dayton also expressed confidence that Minnesota would be the first state to reject a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
The House and Senate have also each passed a constitutional amendment to require people to present photo identification to vote. A House/Senate conference committee is expected to be appointed to reconcile the differences on the bill. If the House and Senate agree on new language, both chambers would have to vote again on it for it to pass.
Other lawmakers say they'd also like to pass the "right-to-work" constitutional amendment that would make union membership and dues voluntary for all members.
The governor cannot veto constitutional amendments, so the questions would be put on the ballot if the House and Senate pass the legislation.(1 Comments)
The Minnesota Senate is expected to vote sometime today on a constitutional amendment that would require people to present photo identification to vote. The measure, which has already passed the House, has drawn significant protest from labor unions, DFL leaning groups and others.
Before the Senate went into session, about 300 people held a silent protest outsie the Senate gallery. Some held signs saying "All of our voices count." Others had $1 bills taped over their mouths to signify that their voices were being drawn out by corporate interests.
Supporters of the amendment argue that requiring photo identification at the polls will ensure that elections are legitimate.
The measure that passed out the Senate Rules Committee is slightly different than the House ballot question. If the Senate passes legislation that is different, a joint House/Senate conference committee would likely have to reconcile the differences.
Gov. Dayton cannot veto a constitutional amendment, so the question will be put on the November ballot if it passes the House and Senate.
The Senate went into session but recessed so the Senate DFL and GOP caucuses can discuss the proposal in private.
Will be updated....
The Senate passed the amendment 36-30. Republican Jeremy Miller of Winona joined every DFLer in voting against the amendment. Every other Republican voted for it.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton sent two of his commissioners to a Minnesota Senate hearing today to highlight his concerns with a Republican-backed tax bill.
The Senate GOP measure is aimed at boosting the economy and encouraging job growth through package of tax breaks for businesses, including a phase-out of the state business property tax. But to cover the costs, Republicans would either dip into the state budget reserves or require the administration to cut spending by about $100 million. Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said the bill would send state finances in the wrong direction.
"We have gotten through a a significant recession," Schowalter said. "We have drawn down our reserves. We have had shifts. We have weakened the financial situation of this state markedly in recent year. The last two forecasts have been positive, and they've helped us restore some of our reserves, and this bill takes us going in the other way."
Schowalter also warned that additional spending reductions would be hard to find. But Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, the committee chair, told Schowalter to try harder.
"I encourage you to go back to the table, roll up your sleeves, get out your pencils, you and the other commissioners and the other managers, there are many of them, and find some savings," Ortman said. "Because I think it's there. I think every Minnesotan knows it's there, and that we can do more to reduce the size of government to encourage the prosperity of individuals and businesses in the state of Minnesota."
Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans told lawmakers that the governor is also concerned that the proposed tax relief won't actually create any jobs.
Representatives of several business groups testified in support of the bill.
Republicans in the Minnesota Senate want to cut the statewide business property tax and pay for it through unspecified cuts.
"The bill overall reduces the state's tax burden by $102.5 million," said Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen.
Ortman, who chairs the Senate Taxes Committee, said she's leaving the decisions on what programs to cut to Gov. Dayton's administration. Ortman said the $100 million in savings will come from the state's budget reserve if Dayton's Administration doesn't find the savings.
"I think it's easily doable by our commissioners," Ortman said.
The bill's biggest tax cut is to the so-called "marriage penalty." The federal government extended a tax break and the Senate bill would make the state's tax laws conform with that change. The change helps married couples at the cost to the state treasury of $62.4 million in fiscal year 2013.
The statewide business property tax levy would be cut by $31 million and nearly $2 million would be go to homeowners to cushion the impact of property tax increases. .
The bill would actually increase taxes on some cigarettes and on motor vehicle paint.
The proposal does not make a significant dent in the state's budget this year but the cost would increase dramatically in coming years. For example, the business property tax levy would be reduced by $145 million in the next two-year budget cycle.
Several Democrats on the Tax Committee were skeptical of the proposal, especially Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook
"If we're going to ask the governor and his administration to have savings then I think you have to spell them out and write them down on a piece of paper and put them in the bill," he said.
Skoe said he was dismayed that Senate Republicans were targeting the newly replenished budget reserve.
The Senate Tax bill is dramatically different from its House companion. House Republicans are pushing a bill that cuts the business property tax and property taxes for homeowners, but they pay for the cuts by reducing the tax credit for renters and by increasing taxes on corporations that operate overseas. Ortman said she won't back either of those measures.
Ortman isn't the only lawmaker who is looking at the budget reserve to potentially pay for priorities. Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, is proposing to pay back $430 million of the $2.4 billion in delayed payments to K-12 schools that helped balance the state's budget last session.
Republicans in the House have proposed taking $430 million from the reserve to start paying back the school shift.
One of the people in the stadium meeting held by Gov. Mark Dayton and a trio of Minneapolis City Council members yesterday morning confirms that the meeting had a interesting twist -- a "reveal," as its known in the business.
The union-backed polling shown to the council members showed support for a stadium deal "in the high 60s" in terms of percentages among residents in Ward 1 and Ward 12. Those wards are represented, respectively, by Kevin Reich and Sandy Colvin Roy, on either end of the city's eastern border.
They're two members of the reported "no" bloc that's keeping the city council from signaling its willingness to play along with the stadium deal struck by Mayor R.T. Rybak, the Vikings and the Dayton administration.
Did the numbers make a difference?
Reich wouldn't say one way or another, but he confirmed he saw the poll results and had this observation: "It's my understanding that the numbers were an aggregate of two wards, based on non-random polling. And thus it wasn't possible to break out numbers for a specific ward."
Several union activists approached by MPR News declined to release the numbers or polling data. Colvin Roy didn't respond to a call or e-mail about Monday's meeting.
But she, Reich and the Minneapolis City Council are key players in the fate of the stadium right now. The deal faltered in the Senate's local government committee last week, and still hasn't been sheduled for its first stop in the house, the Commerce Committee chaired by Joe Hoppe, R-Chaska.
Bill sponsor Morrie Lanning, R- Moorhead, sounded a bit weary of the explanation when asked about the prospects there this week. "As I've been saying, it's not going to progress until there's an understanding with the charities and until something happens with the city of Minneapolis."(5 Comments)
Sen. David Thompson, R-Lakeville, was joined by several other House and Senate Republicans at a news conference this morning who want to see the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot this year.
The proposal would let voters decide whether union membership and the payment of union dues should be voluntary for all workers. Thompson said he's working to convince GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem to hold a hearing on the bill in the Rules Committee.
"What I'm hoping for is that we get the bill vetted in the Rules Committee and sent to the floor," Thompson said.
Thompson said he will not attempt to move the bill from the Rules Committee to the Senate floor. He took the rare step last week of forcing the Senate to vote to yank the bill from the Senate Jobs Committee to the Senate Judiciary Committee. That committee approved it last week. Thompson said he will not force another Senate vote to get the bill to the floor.
Thompson said he asked Senjem to hold a hearing on the bill but didn't receive a commitment. Senjem said late last week that the votes weren't there to pass the amendment in the House or the Senate.
No one at the news conference disputed Senjem's statement, but they said they still want a vote in the House and Senate.
"There's only one way to find out and that's to bring it to the floor," said Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, when asked if they have the votes to pass it.
The measure has not received a hearing in the House.
Union members and their allies have been lobbying fiercely to defeat the measure.
(Photo by MPR's Tim Nelson)
Republicans in the Minnesota House are proposing to borrow $221 million to restore and renovate the State Capitol building. The bill containing the funding, which will be heard in the House Capital Investment Committee today, aims to restore the Capitol in phases. The measure aims to ensure the structural soundness of the building and doesn't aim to improve equipment or other "furnishings."
The bill also requires that construction work has to be sequenced so the House and Senate chambers continue to operate during budget years.
The measure borrows over the next four years and is separate from a bonding bill in the House. That bill proposes borrowing $280 million that is mostly focused on asset preservation.
Here's the bill.
House Republicans are putting forward a $280 million public works bill that focuses mostly on asset preservation at the state's higher education institutions, correctional facilities and local road and bridge improvement. The proposal is less than half the size of what Gov. Dayton outlined in his bonding bill proposal.
Update: The House GOP is also moving a separate bonding bill that focuses on restoring the Capitol. The plan borrows $220 million. That bill is being heard on Tuesday.
The House GOP proposal, put forward by House Capital Investment Chair Larry Howes of Walker, dedicates $35 million in bonding for asset preservation at the University of Minnesota and $20 million for asset preservation for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system. The plan also dedicates $33 million for Rural Finance Authority grants, $20 million for local bridge replacement and rehab, $10 million for local road improvement.
Dayton has been pushing for $775 million in borrowing to help boost the state's construction sector. Some Republicans have argued that the state shouldn't borrow too much in light of the recent economic downturn but Dayton compared the bonding bill to a family mortgaging a house.
Some big-ticket items have been left out of the House Republican plan. The plan does not include money for the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, the Mankato Civic Center and upgrades to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.
House Republicans also dedicate $1 million in borrowing to the St. Cloud Civic Center (Dayton proposed $10 million), $2 million for the St. Paul Saints ballpark in St. Paul (Dayton proposed $27 million) and $2 million for the State Emergency Operations Center in Arden Hills (Dayton proposed $26 million).
The House Capital Investment Committee will hold its first hearing on the bill on
Tuesday Wednesday. It may face stiff DFL opposition considering DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen characterized the proposal on Twitter as the "Tea Party Express strikes again." Democrats have argued for a larger bonding bill. Republicans need to garner 81 votes in the House to get the bonding bill passed since it needs a three-fifths majority to pass each chamber.
Senate Republicans have yet to release their proposal.
Here are some of the highlights of the House GOP plan:
$35 m for HEAPR at the U of M
$20 million for HEAPR at MnSCU
$13.8 million for the Ridgewater College, Willmar- Technical Instruction Lab Renovation
$33 million for Rural Finance Authority Grants
$20 million for local bridge replacement and rehab
$10 million for local road improvement
$10 million in asset preservation at Department of Corrections
$9 million for The Hormel Institute in Austin
$12 million for the St. Paul Children's Museum
$20 million for the Wastewater Infrastructure Funding program
$10 million for foreclosure remediation
Here's the full proposal:1 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton met with three members of the Minneapolis City Council this morning to talk to them about their support for a stadium.
Dayton said Mayor R.T. Rybak, council president Barb Johnson and two other city council members attended. City officials identified them as Sandy Colvin Roy and Kevin Reich, although neither has returned a phone call to their office seeking confirmation.
"There are a couple that are carefully considering their position," Dayton said of council members.
Reich said earlier this month that he believes city's voters need to approve the proposed $975 million stadium plan in a referendum. Rybak, though, said the same day that he didn't consider Reich a "no" vote.
Colvin Roy last month cited similar reasoning in voicing her reluctance to supporting a stadium plan: that 1997 charter amendment that requires a referendum on stadium spending over $10 million.
The two are part of what are reported to be a majority "no" bloc on the council, and part of the reason Rybak has said he hasn't been able to offer tangible proof of the city's support for his stadium plan. And if Reich and Colvin Roy are in fact the swing votes on the plan, Dayton offered little indication that he'd swung them.
"Well, they're open to considering their position," Dayton said. "I don't know that either of them have taken a firm position. I don't know that for a fact one way or the other. But they both indicated they were willing to consider their position."
Dayton touched on another facet of the stadium debate as well: whether the council can vote on a stadium before the Legislature acts.
"I'm not a lawyer. Some say the council can't actually by law vote definitively until after the Legislature enacts the legislation. So I think what the Legislature's looking for is a letter, that's clear that at least a majority of the Minneapolis City Council support the project, and ultimately assuming that the terms stay relatively the same, would support it."
But Dayton also added that he still considers the stadium alive. "I'm still hopeful," he said. "We didn't get any final commitments, but we didn't ask for any final commitments, either."(5 Comments)
Democrats in the Minnesota Senate have filed an ethics complaint against Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, for how he handled the affair between former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch and Senate Republican Caucus spokesman Michael Brodkorb.
Michel was first told about the "inappropriate relationship" between Koch and Brodkorb in September and then reported it to Senate human resources . He failed to confront Koch on the matter until late November.
"Upon being made aware of an alleged inappropriate relationship between the Senate Majority Leader and a subordinate senate employee in September, 2011, Senator Michel had an obligation as Deputy Majority Leader to take appropriate action to fully and swiftly address the matter," Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, wrote in the complaint.
Pappas also said Michel brought "dishonor and disrepute" to the Senate by not taking action to fully and swiftly address the matter. Pappas said he "betrayed the public's trust by making false and clearly misleading public statements regarding when he became aware" of the relationship.
Michel initially told reporters late last year that he became aware of the relationship in early November but later admitted he found out about the affair on September 21. Koch's former chief of staff, Cullen Sheehan, told Michel about the affair at that time.
Pappas is asking the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate the details of the matter and that the hearings be open to the public.
The complaint comes less than a week after attorneys for Brodkorb announced that they intend to sue the Senate for gender discrimination. They say they will provide examples of female staffers who had affairs with male lawmakers but still kept their jobs.
Will be updated...
Here's the complaint:
Sen. Michel issued this statement:
"This is about politics and payback and has nothing to do with ethics. The DFL wants a few more headlines. The conflict of interest has been resolved. The workplace environment has improved. And, we did this while protecting whistleblowers and staff. I have asked for an immediate hearing to resolve this matter."
The Minnesota Campaign Finance Board released a report that detailed the spending on lobbying of the Minnesota Legislature and the Dayton Administration in 2011. The Board reports that $59 million was spent to influence the Legislature and the Administration.
Business groups lead the spending. Xcel Energy spent $2.3 million, the most of any organizations. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce spent $2 million, the Minnesota Business Partnership spent $980,000. Minneapolis Radiation Oncology Physicians, a group fighting a moratorium on new radiation treatment centers in Minnesota, spent $900,000. The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, which represents mostly rural cities, and the Minnesota AFL-CIO, a coalition of labor unions, spent $820,000 each.
Update: An official with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities says they made a reporting error to the Campaign Finance Board. They say they will submit an amended report that says the group spent $460,000 on lobbying in 2011.
You can read the full list here.
Republicans in the Minnesota House have passed their plan to payback a small portion of the $2.4 billion still owed to public schools by using some of state's rainy day fund.
The bill that passed on a 74 to 59 vote tonight would take $430 million out of budget reserves. Lawmakers delayed payments to schools to erase the last two budget deficits.
Despite a highly partisan floor debate, Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, insisted that the issue not just about politics.
"Instead of Republicans and Democrats pointing fingers at each other blaming each other for increasing debt to schools, we can now work together and argue over who gets credit for paying the money back," Garofalo said. "So, we think this is a good direction, and it points out that Minnesota is going on the right track."
DFL lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to payback the entire amount owed to schools without touching the reserves. Their plan would have ended tax breaks to Minnesota companies operating in other countries. Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, urged lawmakers to put students ahead of corporations.
"We have a fundamental choice of corporate tax loopholes overseas, versus funding our kids and funding our schools," Hornstein said. "So let's make sure we pay back schools from Alexandria to Zumbrota rather than continue corporate loopholes from Andorra to Vanuatu."
Gov. Mark Dayton also has concerns about the GOP bill. He recently said the payback is not fiscally responsible.
Gov. Dayton sent a letter to members of the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee urging them to approve a Vikings stadium bill. The committee is the first stop for the bill and it isn't certain whether the bill will make it through committee. Dayton reminded lawmakers that the financing from the electronic pull-tab is solid despite reports otherwise.
"I believe it is sound, reliable and sufficient to finance the state's share of this project," Dayton wrote. "Anyone who says otherwise is speaking without my authorization and is seriously misrepresenting my position. Futhermore, everyone trying to dismantle this proposal, without offering a better one, is clearly trying to defeat this bill"
Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Chair Ted Mondale and Vikings lobbyist Lester Bagley urged the committee to pass the bill. He said the Metrodome has outlived its usefulness.
"It's the smallest stadium in the league," Bagley said. "It will no longer sustain an NFL team. We're at the bottom of the NFL in stadium revenues and fan experience."
Several business and labor leaders also signaled their support for the bill.
Mondale told the committee that state's $398 million contribution will be returned by taxes from player salaries, Vikings employees, other teams and sales taxes from the games.
"The state payback in gross dollars over a 33 year period of time would be $450 million more that the state would get back than the state would put in on this particular project."
But several members expressed skepticism about those numbers. Sen. Roger Chamberlain cited studies that said sports stadiums don't generate the expected return on investment.
"I want a stadium, I want you guys to stay here but I think the impact and the return to the state has proven to be zero."
Other critics, including a lobbyist for the Minnesota Family Council, said expanding electronic gambling is bad public policy.
"We're going to build a stadium to a significant degrees on the backs of problem gamblers," Prichard said. "In fact, the state will have a vested interst in having more people become addicted to and spend more money gambling over a 30 year period in order to pay off the bonds."
It isn't certain whether the committee will approve the bill. Bipartisan supporters of the stadium were busy working legislators before the committee started.
Here's Dayton's letter:
Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley, announced today that he won't be running for reelection. In a prepared statement, Gerlach cited family considerations as the reason for stepping down.
"While serving in the Legislature is truly an honor and privilege, the family and financial sacrifices are great," he said. "Now is the time to reassess my personal priorities."
Gerlach was criticized late last week for how he handled mailings regarding the so-called "Right-to-Work" amendment. His firm was hired to print mailings that targeted Republican senators onr the issue.
Gerlach's district leans Republican but will be another open seat that Republicans will be forced to defend.
Republicans not running for re-election to the Minnesota Senate:
Gretchen Hoffman (running for Congress)
Note: Republican Mike Parry is running for Congress but has not ruled out a run for re-election if he fails to win his party's endorsement.
DFLers not running for re-election to the MN Senate:
- Republicans Michelle Benson and Michael Jungbauer were paired in the same district and are battling for the Republican endorsement. Both say they would abide by the party endorsement.
- DFLers John Marty and Mary Jo McGuire were paired and are battling for the DFL endorsement. Marty and McGuire say they'll abide by the party's endorsement.
Gov. Dayton is proposing a revised budget that would give tax breaks to companies that hire veterans and unemployed workers, restore some health care cuts and increase benefits for veterans.
Human Services Commissioner Cindy Jesson says the plan would restore cuts the governor and Legislature made last year to personal care attendants, medical research and emergency medical assistance.
"We chose to propose restoring these things because we see immediate risk of harm very much to people if we don't take these steps."
The governor's spends an extra $60 million, which would be collected by raising taxes on corporations that operate overseas and by requiring online retailers like Amazon to collect and pay state sales taxes on purchases. Republicans in the Legislature have opposed efforts to close what some call a tax loophole for corporations that operate overseas.
Dayton said the current tax break for companies with overseas operations doesn't make sense.
"Why do we want to give incentives to companies, big companies most of them, for putting jobs overseas rather than investing that money in the future of the people of Minnesota?," Dayton said.
Republicans have been reluctant to raise taxes on corporations that operate overseas. They say companies would be less likely to hire workers in Minnesota if the law were changed.
Here are the details put forward by Dayton's office.
GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem released this statement:
"Governor Dayton's supplemental budget is a surprise and a shock," said Senate Majority Leader Senjem. "We have managed Minnesota's budget well in the past year from a $5 billion budget deficit to over a $1 billion surplus and the first thing the Governor wants to do is raise taxes. Embarrassing!"
The Governor's "jobs" portion of this proposal actually costs $35 million and results in a temporary program. The bottom line is this: the Governor's proposal is a temporary tax credit for a permanent tax increase.
In a letter last year, Joy Lindsay of the Minnesota High Tech Association Board said, "Minnesota's foreign royalty deduction was enacted during the Perpich administration to encourage companies to invest in research and development in Minnesota which creates high-paying, high-tech jobs here." Governor Dayton's proposal would jeopardize thousands of technology workers' jobs, whose average wages are much higher than the state's average.
In addition to the permanent tax increase, the Governor is also recommending fee increases on hunting and fishing licenses.
"What we are doing is working for Minnesota," Senate Majority Leader Senjem concluded. "I can't believe the Governor wants to retreat to raising taxes with the surplus just announced."
Governor Dayton says he's revising his stadium plan to try to encourage charities to sign on to the use of electronic pull-tabs.
The stadium plan uses revenue from electronic pull-tabs to finance the state's $398 million dollar share of the stadium. Dayton said today that he wants give the state's charities an annual tax break of $10 million because earlier officials with the charitable gambling industry said their costs were so high they were unlikely to use electronic pull-tabs. Dayton said he wanted to respond to their concerns.
"The kind of increase that they're going to have in bottom line profits is very significant," Dayton said. "But one of my axioms in politics is that more is never enough. So you think more satisfies people and you find it just whets their appetite for more."
King Wilson, executive director of Allied Charities of Minnesota, said he was working with the Dayton Administration on the proposal but he had concerns that the tax break wasn't large enough.
"If the number is $10 million, I don't think that gives us the reform and relief we need that will make it work," he said.
Dayton's announcement comes on the same day he's meeting privately with the four legislative leaders to discuss the stadium.
The bill is scheduled to be formally introduced on Monday. Update: You can read the bill here.
Here are some of the documents put forward by Gov. Dayton's office:1 Comments)
Two weeks ago, a Republican lawmaker was pushing hard for an alternative to the proposed constitutional amendment that would require people to show a photo ID before they could vote. The alternative would instead protect election integrity through legislative action, by using what are called electronic poll books to ensure only people who are properly registered can vote.
But state Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, now appears to be distancing himself from some of his previous comments on the subject. In an earlier interview, Howe said he thought the electronic poll books, an idea also advocated by Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, would be "a big enough step that we don't have to do anything further."
Today, Howe insisted that he's not trying to prevent the constitutional amendment from moving forward.
"I don't want to see this approach as in competition to the photo ID amendment," Howe said. "I think it's complementary."
Howe also stayed away from the news conference that Gov. Mark Dayton held to discuss the same voter verification plan. Dayton was supposed to be joined by a "bipartisan group of legislators," including Howe. But only Democrats attended.
Dayton, who vetoed a Republican-backed voter ID bill last year, said the Howe/Ritchie proposal is an opportunity for bipartisan legislation that he could support.
"What the people of Minnesota want us to do is work constructively together, work across party lines, work in a bipartisan way in their best interest," Dayton said.(1 Comments)
State Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said today that she submitted her Vikings stadium bill today and it will be formally introduced in the Minnesota Senate on Monday. Rosen also said she expects committee hearings to begin on the bill next week.
"The hope is to bring it to the floor," Rosen said. "We'll start having hearings next week and get it through the proper process and do the due diligence."
Rosen said she's still confident that the Vikings stadium bill has a chance to pass this session. For example she said it has the support of leaders from both parties. GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem and DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk have signed on as co-authors. Senjem wouldn't say whether the bill had a chance to pass this session, given that most members don't know the full details of the proposal.
"The good thing here is that it's on board and it's in the process," Senjem said. "We're able to now take it and chew in on for a while and find out what it tastes like."
Senate staffers say the bill language should be available late Friday afternoon.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, told reporters on Thursday that he hoped to introduce the bill in the Minnesota House on Monday.
Next week is a critical step for the stadium because all bills have to clear at least one policy committee before March 16.
Republicans in the Minnesota Senate took an unusual step today by moving a bill from one committee to another before the first committee voted on the measure. The bill in question is a proposed constitutional amendment would allow voters to decide whether workers could voluntarily avoid paying union dues.
Sen. Dave Thompson, R- Lakeville, requested that the so-called "right-to-work" bill be moved from the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It's a simple procedural move, but it upends the typical Senate process that allows policy committees to debate and vote on bills that fall within their jurisdiction.
Several union lobbyists said Thompson made the move because there weren't enough votes in the Jobs Committee to approve the bill.
Thompson said he believes the Judiciary Committee was a better place to consider the bill, and that there would be plenty of debate.
"I don't have the least bit of concern that the public won't have an opportunity to learn about this and provide all of the input that they'd like to provide in the judiciary committee," Thompson said. "I feel that the public will in no way be short-changed by going to this committee."
The Senate voted 34-30 in favor of Thompson's request to move the bill. Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, switched his vote from no to yes to reach 34 votes. Gimse said that he switched his vote to help move the amendment along.
"They needed my vote to see the bill progress on to the Judiciary Committee," Gimse said. "My protest was heard but I want it to go to the Jobs Committee also and follow the legislative procedure."
Gimse said he hopes the bill goes back to the Jobs Committee at some point. Gimse said he wasn't sure how he would vote on the amendment.
Every Democrat and Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, voted against it.
Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, said he was disappointed that Jobs and Economic Growth Chair Geoff Michel was willing to give up control of the bill and worried about the precedent that the vote set.
"Let's find the time and do it the right way," Metzen said. "I think we're going down the wrong path here and if we continue to do this it's a terrible slippery slope."
The state's labor unions have been actively working to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment.
If the House and Senate both pass it, the question would be put to the voters this fall.
UPDATE: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the bill on Monday, March 12 at 8am in Room 15 of the State Capitol.(10 Comments)
Gov. Dayton says former Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum's dispute with the University of Minnesota's Board of Regents is embarrassing Sviggum and the school.
Sviggum is both a university regent and works as chief spokesman for the Senate Republican Caucus. The board of regents is meeting today <<11 am>> to discuss whether the two jobs are in conflict.
A three member regents panel said last week that Sviggum does have a conflict of interest. Sviggum has rejected that idea, but Dayton says he told him that there is a problem.
"I think he's got to make a decision between one and the other," Dayton said. "I told him I have great respect for his years of service and we always gotten along very well and my advice as a friend is that this was an embarrassment to him and to the university and he needed to resolve it."
Sviggum said he will not step down regardless of any action taken by the board of regents.
Update: Sviggum resigned from the board this morning.
Republicans in the Minnesota House are proposing to tap two thirds of the state's budget reserve to pay back a portion of a K12 school shift they used to balance the budget in 2011.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, says the measure is part of a K12 bill that will be heard in committee tomorrow. He said paying back schools with $430 million from the state's budget reserve is a better use of the money.
"If you look at accounting principles, it's better to reduce your debt and reduce your liabilities than to have that cash sitting around," Garofalo said.
A nonpartisan budget analyst in the House said the proposal could force the state to enact short-term borrowing to meet cash flow needs. DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen says they're open to the option but would prefer Republicans find a way to pay the entire $2.4 billion shift back.
"This is one way to do it and I think it deserves consideration," Thissen said. "But I also think we ought to be putting a plan in place that is paying back the school shift over time and getting that into law."
Thissen said they're proposing to eliminate a tax break for corporations that operate overseas to pay back the schools over time. Governor Dayton and GOP legislative leaders relied on the accounting trick to erase part of a $5 billion budget deficit.
The K12 school shift is expected to be a major talking point during the 2012 campaign.(1 Comments)
Governor Dayton has vetoed legislation that would have expanded the use of deadly force in Minnesota.
In his veto letter to the Legislature, Governor Dayton said he vetoed the bill because most major law enforcement agencies raised issues about the bill. Dayton said he appreciated the efforts to craft the bill to ease worries by law enforcement but said their concerns "must be honored."
The bill would have given gun owners significantly more latitude to use deadly force for self defense. It would have allowed the use of deadly force with a weapon if people believe they are in imminent danger in a home, hotel room, car, boat or tent. The National Rifle Association issued a statement saying it was disappointed with Dayton's veto.
The GOP-controlled Legislature didn't pass it with enough votes to override Dayton's veto.
Here's Dayton's veto letter:
State Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, issued this statement. Hoffman, who is also running for Congress, is the chief author of the bill in the Senate:
"I am very disappointed with Governor Dayton's decision today to deny law-abiding citizens their right to defend themselves and their families. While current law enables the aggressor, my bill focused on protecting the victim. Unfortunately, with the Governor's veto, violent criminals will continue to have the advantage over law-abiding citizens," said Senator Hoffman. "I was hopeful, because Governor Dayton made such a strong statement on the campaign trail about Minnesotan's right to bear arms and use them for lawful purposes such as self-defense, that he would follow through with his actions and sign this bill to enhance public safety."
Here's the statement from Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association:
The National Rifle Association (NRA) is deeply disappointed in Governor Dayton's veto of House File 1467 - an omnibus bill that included a number of key firearms law reforms in Minnesota. This bill passed both chambers of the Minnesota legislature with broad bi-partisan support.
House File 1467 contained vital common-sense reforms that would have enhanced self-defense laws for the law-abiding residents of that state. It would have removed the duty to retreat for crime victims currently mandated under Minnesota state law and precluded victims from facing prosecution for lawfully defending their lives. This bill would have also enhanced self-defense rights by recognizing the Right-to-Carry permits of those visiting and those traveling through Minnesota with valid Right-to-Carry permits from the other 48 states that issue them (Illinois does not issue Right-to-Carry permits of any kind).
Furthermore, House File 1467 would have prohibited gun confiscation in times of declared emergencies. The NRA led the way at the this key change in federal law following Hurricane Katrina, when New Orleans authorities went door-to-door confiscating legally owned firearms and depriving residents of their solitary means of self-defense. It is exceptionally disappointing that Governor Dayton vetoed this provision after having voted in favor of similar legislation while a member of the U.S. Senate.
Moving forward, the NRA remains resolute in bringing rational and reasonable reforms to Minnesota's firearms and self-defense laws.
Here's a statement from Joan Peterson, Protect Minnesota board member and member of the Brady Campaign Board said:
"This bill could give the claim of self-defense to any domestic abuser engaged in a dispute with a partner or spouse. When only two people are involved in a dispute and one of them winds up dead, who is left to disprove the claim of the shooter that s/he was the one threatened? As someone whose sister was shot to death in a domestic case in Minneapolis, I am grateful that Governor Dayton vetoed this bill that could have allowed domestic abusers to get away with murder. "(20 Comments)
From MPR's Rupa Shenoy and Nancy Lebens
A spokeswoman at Regions Hospital says state Sen. Gary Kubly, DFL-Granite Falls, remains in critical condition after being taken to the St. Paul hospital earlier today.
DFL Senate Caucus spokesman Amos Briggs says Kubly had a medical crisis this morning and is at Regions Hospital. Briggs says Kubly's family is asking for the public's prayers.
Kubly, a retired Lutheran pastor, announced
in late January last year he'd been diagnosed with ALS, the degenerative neuromuscular condition also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Kubly's legislative career started with his election to the House in 1996 and was elected to the Senate in 2002. He has said he doesn't plan to run for re-election in 2012.(1 Comments)
State Finance officials are expected to announce this morning that the current two-year budget has a $323 million surplus, according to a person who has been briefed on the number.
The forecast comes just three months after State Finance officials announced that the state had an $876 million surplus. By law, that money was used to fill the state budget reserve and the state's cash flow account.
Gov. Dayton and state lawmakers will use the latest forecast to make spending decisions during the current legislative session. But there are already a lot of spending commitments in law. For example, state law says an additional $5 million needs to be placed into the state's budget reserves. The law also requires that the state start paying back a K-12 school shift that was used to erase a $5 billion budget deficit last year.
Several Republicans have said that they want to dedicate the money to start repaying the $2.2 billion school shift. But GOP House Majority Leader Matt Dean said there could be pressure from other members to spend the money on other things. He said his caucus will start discussing those ideas in the next week or two.
Update: The forecast is projecting a $1.1 billion deficit for the next two-year budget cycle. That budget will have to be balanced by the next Legislature.
State Finance officials will officially release the report at 11:45 this morning. Gov. Dayton is scheduled to brief reporters at 12:45.
Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature say they want to end a tax break for foreign operating corporations to help pay back recent payment delays to K-12 schools.
The Legislature and governor delayed $2.2 billion in payments to schools over the past four years to balance the state's budget. Sen. Katie Sieben,
RDFL-Newport, said closing what she calls corporate tax loopholes would generate $450 million a year. She said the plan would pay back the schools within six years.
"The state has given Minnesota kids $2.2 billion in IOUs," Sieben said. "But IOUs can't buy textbooks, construction paper or a chance for children to play in their elementary school band."
Gov. Dayton has suggested using the money from closing tax loopholes to create a new tax credit to encourage businesses to hire. The state's business community has opposed closing the corporate tax break. They argue it helps companies like 3M, Target and Medtronic remain competitive with foreign companies.
Meanwhile, the Minnesota Senate is currently considering a bill that would allow performance consideration in teacher layoffs.(1 Comments)
Posted at 4:30 PM on February 26, 2012
by Tom Scheck
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton has been elected vice chair of the Midwest Governors Association. The group, which represents nine states in the Midwest, is a "bipartisan organization that brings together the governors of the region to work cooperatively on agriculture, economic development and energy issues of importance to the Midwest.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, will serve as chair of MGA through February of 2013. Branstad will focus on "promoting a positive Midwestern narrative, increasing domestic energy production and supporting lower energy costs for businesses and families within the region."
"I look forward to assisting Governor Branstad with leading the organization through its 50th anniversary year," Dayton said in a statement. "Working together as a region will help ensure that the Midwest continues to be a national and international leader in innovation."
Dayton's election puts him in line to chair the organization in February, 2013 (when Branstad's term ends). The chairs typically rotate between parties. Former GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty chaired the group in 2007. (Note: Former GOP Gov. Arne Carlson chaired it for two years in the 1990s). Here's the list of past chairs.
The new redistricting maps put forward by the court pairs 30 members of the Minnesota House and 16 members of the Minnesota Senate.
I'll post analysis later.
Here are the Senate pairings:
Here are the House pairings:
Gov. Dayton sent a letter to Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann today urging her to get the House to pass the bill authorizing a replacement for the Stillwater Bridge. He warned that failing to get the measure passed would mean the state would have to use the money currently set aside for the bridge for other projects.
"Everyone must understand, however, that if the March 15th deadline cannot be met and the federal and state monies are reallocated to other Minnesota transportation projects, there will no longer be sufficient funding available to undertake the St. Croix Crossing Project in the foreseeable future," the letter reads.
Dayton's letter may be meant to put some political pressure on Bachmann. Dayton, a Democrat, praised DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar for getting the bill passed in the U.S. Senate.
Klobuchar, Bachmann and Dayton are all pushing for a new bridge. Their plan would exempt the state from Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and some critics argue the proposed new bridge is too big and too expensive.
Not all of the members of Congress are backing the legislation. Democrats Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison are opposed to the plan.
Here's Dayton's letter:
With MPR's Rupa Shenoy...
Governor Mark Dayton politely asked legislative leaders to pass his job creation plans. But in his second State of the State speech last night (Audio and written document below) he also told them that the voters would judge in November who has the right approach on the state's finances.
In a speech that was part conciliatory and part confrontational, Dayton outlined his priorities for the legislative session. Dayton called for lawmakers to pass a bonding bill, a new Vikings stadium and a tax credit for businesses that hire new workers.
Dayton said the bonding bill would repair buildings, upgrade classrooms, improve state parks, and finance downtown revitalization projects. He cited a national study that said the bill would create nearly 22-thousand jobs.
The governor also called for passage of a bill to fund a new Vikings stadium.
"Some of you reportedly want to avoid voting on a stadium until after next fall's elections," Dayton said. "That would be terribly unfair to the several thousand unemployed Minnesotans, who could be working on that project this year, and to the Vikings. Pass the Stadium Bill this session. Please."
Dayton also mentioned the November elections several times during his speech. He said voters would decide whether his approach to raise taxes on top earners to fix the state's budget situation or the GOP plan that relied on spending cuts.
Republicans praised Dayton for striking a mostly cooperative tone during the speech. GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers said Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he's ready to have that discussion.
"We lived within our means and we didn't raise taxes on business owners," Zellers said. "If that's the choice going into this fall's election, absolutely."
GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said he expects the legislature to pass a bonding bill but Republican leaders didn't commit to Dayton's other job creation plans.
Listen to Dayton's speech here: Listen
Listen to the news conference from Zellers and Senjem here: Listen
Senjem released a video message that you can watch here.
You can read Dayton's speech here:
Senate Republican caucus spokesman Steve Sviggum acknowledged today that Republicans should not have used public money to print a pamphlet they distributed at GOP precinct caucuses last week.
The apology came shortly after state DFL Party officials said they would file a campaign finance complaint over the pamphlets because they sent people to the Senate Republican website, which asks for donations to GOP senate campaigns.
Fifteen Republican senators handed out the pamphlets that touted their 2012 legislative agenda, thanked people for attending cacucuses and directed them to website. Sviggum admits he made a mistake.
"I take responsibility for that being there," he said. "It is not a responsibility for any of the senators or any of the staff other than myself."
Sviggum said he'll reimburse the state for the cost of the printing.
The DFL filed its complaint with the
Minnesota Campaign Finance Board Office of Administrative Hearings against 12 Republican senators. A spokeswoman said they'll amend the complaint if they find additional violations. DFL Party Chair Ken Martin told reporters that the senators in question and the Senate Republican Caucus should be penalized.
"At the end if the day we feel that they clearly crossed the line here," Martin said. "They didn't just go up to the line, they crossed the line and turned the literature they produced at taxpayer expense into campaign literature."
Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said the Republican Senate counsel had seen the pamphlet before it went out and approved it. Senjem said he considered it the same kind of literature senators would send to constituents.
State law prohibits taxpayer money from being used for campaigning.
Here's the complaint filed by the DFL Party:1 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton says he'll make a Vikings stadium deal a priority next year if it doesn't pass this session. Dayton says he's still committed to seeking passage this year but in an interview with MPR News he said he's upset that a financing plan isn't in place yet. He said he wants the Legislature to vote on the measure this session but suggested it will be a priority regardless of the outcome.
"If we don't get it this session, I intend to bring it up next session and I'm optimistic we'll get it then," Dayton said. "I tell people that we'll get it this year or we'll get it next year."
The legislation has been stymied by a failure to get a financing plan in place. Minneapolis city officials are squabbling over whether there's enough support for a plan to build the stadium in that city. Ramsey County officials came forward with another plan today that relies on stadium-related taxes and fees. MPR's Tim Nelson covered that story today and you can read it here.
Minnesota Management and Budget says general fund revenues were $107 million below forecast in January. The agency says revenues are $45.5 million less than forecast for the fiscal year that runs from July 1 to June 30. The latest revenue forecast details the state's tax collections for the past month.
The revenues, however, are only a portion of the state's overall financial picture. The unknown piece is how spending is tracking. The December budget forecast said Minnesota had an $876 million surplus for the current two-year budget cycle.
Gov. Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature are waiting for the Feb. 29 budget forecast to determine if they'll need to address any budgetary and spending decisions in the current session.
Here's the document from MMB:
DFL Governor Mark Dayton has vetoed the first bills sent to him this session, and he used the occasion to blast Republican legislative leaders.
Dayton rejected a group of GOP-backed bills that would have changed the rules for civil lawsuits. His veto letters described the bills as "legislative meddling." During a news conference this morning, Dayton said it was difficult to take the bills seriously since Republicans ignored the recommendations of judicial leaders and never contacted him or his staff.
"Thus it is hard for me to believe that this rush it to pass it strategy had any expectation of creating laws. Instead it appears to be just another political by the Republican majorities, as they provide their special interest friends, the rich and the powerfull with more favoritism and favors at the expense of most other Minnesotans."
Dayton also said the GOP claim that the measures would help grow jobs was "laughable." He said the bills would have mostly benefited large insurance companies in other states.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said he was disappointed by the vetoes and the governor's comments.
"Get off the rhetoric. It's not productive," Senjem said. "We can do better than this, and we will do better than this. But the name calling is I think is not productive to the effort and is not going to help as we move through this session."
Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said Dayton owes an apology and an explanation to the Minnesota businesses that asked for the civil lawsuit changes.
Lawmakers returned to St. Paul last Tuesday for the start of the 2012 legislative session, and they're already preparing to take some time off to attend precinct caucuses.
Those caucuses are next Tuesday, Feb. 7. But the Minnesota House will begin its break at the end of the day tomorrow. The Senate begins its break after meetings are completed on Thursday. Lawmakers from both chambers return next Wednesday, Feb. 8.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton took note of the early break Monday during his news conference to react to the Senate's rejection of Ellen Anderson as Public Utilities Commission chair.
"They've only been in session for less than a week, and now they're going to take a week off to go to precinct caucuses," Dayton said. "All you need to do is get in your car and drive to precinct caucuses. So, I don't understand why they need a week."
During a news conference on a separate topic today, a reporter asked House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, about the early break.
"Would it have been our choice to take that extended length of vacation?," Thissen responded. "I don't know, but it is what it is."
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said the Legislature has traditionally taken time off for precinct caucuses. Dean didn't seem to think this year's break, or its length, was anything unusual.
"I think it's probably pretty historical," Dean said. "If you look back with other caucuses, I don't know."
The House Rules Committee, which Dean chairs, approved a resolution today to halt per diem payments during the break, as well as during an extended Easter break scheduled for early April. Dean said the action was purely budgetary.
The draft report of the Minnesota Sunset Advisory Commission suggests eliminating just one state government commission, and even that proposal could be pulled back. The group recommends eliminating the Combative Sports Commission and rolling its duties into the Amateur Sports Commission. But several Democrats on the commission objected.
"This proposal was never aired," commission member Matt Entenza said. "We haven't had an opportunity to hear whether this proposal would be a good idea. There are lots of things that are good ideas but there may be all kinds of unintended consequences."
Entenza said he and others also weren't briefed about therecommendations before a meeting Friday . Republicans said part of the problem is that they were bumping up against a tight deadline to submit recommendations to the Legislature.
Other members said it would look bad if the Sunset Commission didn't recommend folding any government units this year.
"If we're a Sunset Advisory Commission, and we come back to the Legislature and say 'keep everything,' and don't do some of the things that seem to be are fairly obvious," said GOP Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer , "it seems like we have missed an opportunity."
The Sunset Commission has been highly touted by Republicans in the Legislature as a way to streamline government services and get rid of programs that don't work. The group's members were appointed by the House, Senate and governor's office. It is supposed to examine every government agency and determine whether it should continue operating.
The commission is scheduled to meet again on Tuesday to finalize the report and determine how it will handle the Combative Sports Commission.
The Sunset Advisory Commission also suggests that the Council on Black Minnesotans be continued for two years and added to the 2014 Sunset Review Schedule. The Office of the Legislative Auditor has also been instructed to review the finances of the council in 2013. The Sunset Commission also recommends that each board and council should "make full use of collaborative administrative support services" and look to combine I-T services.
The latest Public Policy Polling survey says 53 percent of those polled approve of the job Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is doing. Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature are faring much worse. 23 percent of those polled view them negatively. The poll says Democrats in the Legislature are winning in a generic ballot against their GOP opponents but the DFL approval numbers aren't much better than Republicans. Just 31 percent of those surveyed have a favorable opinion of Democrats.
The poll also shows that the constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman is close. 48 percent of those surveyed say the support the ban on same-sex marriage. 44 percent are opposed to it.
59 percent of those surveyed also don't support any public money going to a new Vikings stadium but that's only if the team stays in Minnesota. Public opinion appears to shift if public money is the only way it will keep the team in the state. 46 percent of those polled say they'd support public money for a stadium if "that's what it took to keep the Vikings in Minnesota."
Read the full poll here.
The Minnesota Senate is expected to reject Gov. Dayton's appointment of Ellen Anderson to chair the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. Deputy Senate Majority Leader Julianne Ortman said today the senate will vote on Anderson's confirmation Monday. If the senate rejects her, Anderson is effectively fired from the job. Ortman said Anderson's policies are unfriendly to businesses and ratepayers and are not in line with the views of most Minnesotans.
"She's got a tough record for job providers, job creators, the ratepayers," Ortman said. "Her work has created some controversy. It makes it very difficult to confirm a commissioner who is as controversial as she has been."
Anderson is a former DFL senator from St. Paul who sponsored the state's renewable energy standard. Gov. Dayton said Anderson has been a good chair and done has nothing wrong.
DFL Governor Mark Dayton says Ellen Anderson has been a good chair of the Public Utilities Commission, and he's not happy that Senate Republicans appear ready to fire her.
"People of Minnesota want better than this," Dayton said. "The people of Minnesota -- they want us to work together. They want us to reconcile our differences. They want us to compromise as we'll have to because we're coming from different perspectives. And they want us to get about jobs and other things. They don't want us to be involved in petty revenge for something that happened four years ago."
Anderson would be the first of Gov. Dayton's appointments that would be rejected by the Senate.
Democrats in control of the Minnesota Senate rejected two of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's commissioners. The Senate rejected Cheri Yecke as Education Commissioner in 2004 and former Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau as Transportation Commissioner in 2008.(5 Comments)
Republican legislative leaders say this session's bonding bill won't be as big or as fast moving as DFL Governor Mark Dayton is hoping to see.
Dayton proposed a $775 million bonding bill last week for public works constriction projects throughout the state, and he asked for quick acation. He wants a passed bill on his desk to sign by the end of February, to help get unemployed builders back on the jobs as soon as possible. But Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, says he's planning to take more time.
"I don't anticipate a bill being brought out of committee until about March 14," Howes said. "That will give us time to get the February forecast on February 29. We'll get a handle on what our checkbook looks like, what out debt service may or may not be, and then leadership will determine the size of the bill and then we'll go from there."
Howes says he thinks the maxiumum size for a bonding bill this year in the House is about $500 million.
Governor Dayton sits down tomorrow with Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf and state lawmakers. The hope is that they craft a financing plan for a new Vikings stadium. Dayton said this week that the only way a stadium plan will pass this session is if the measure rebuilds the stadium on the existing Metrodome site. Vikings owner Mark Wilf, however, wouldn't commit when asked whether he supports plans to build there.
"There's a lot of details to work through and a lot of issues to talk about, " Wilf said. "So rather than to get into any specifics, I'd prefer to just work through and see what the political will of the governor and the Legislature on how this thing moves forward. Our number one objective is to get a stadium solution for our fans and the Vikings that is exciting for not just the Vikings but the community at large."
Wilf made his comments to reporters at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce's Annual Dinner. He and his brother, Zygi, attended the event which featured Gov. Dayton and the four legislative leaders. Dayton, who said earlier in the day that the Legislature should hold an up-or-down vote on the stadium, spoke little about the stadium at the event.
Lawmakers, however, didn't get off so easily. KSTP's Tom Hauser, who moderated a legislative panel, directly asked GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers, GOP Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk whether an up-or-down vote should be held this session. Senjem initially said such a vote should be held but then hedged a bit when asked if it would be held "this session."
"I got 37 members that this thing has to churn through, so I'm not sure how it's going to turn out," Senjem said.
Zellers also didn't commit to holding a vote. He said he believes a similar demand in the 1990s delayed the Twins stadium for several years.
"I don't think it's fair to Mark and Zygi [Wilf] to wait again for nine or ten years," Zellers said. "I don't think they have the patience for this. I know their lobbyists don't but I think it's really important to make sure it's a process that is thorough and if you say yes or no now I don't think that's fair to them."
Thissen said he thinks there should be a vote this year.
"There are going to be Democrats for it and Democrats against it," Thissen said. "Now it's in the hands of the people who hold the gavels which are the Republicans in the Legislature."
Bakk said he'd like to see the Vikings stadium bill pass, but he also criticized the 1,600 business leaders in the room for failing to lobby for the plan.
"The State Chamber has not put their shoulder to the wheel on this," Bakk said. "It's only going to happen this session if the State Chamber stands up and says 'This is important to us.'"
One key sticking point will be whether the stadium financing plan will include money to upgrade the Target Center. Mayor Rybak says the plan is essential to win city support. GOP lawmakers say including the upgrade will cost them votes in the Legislature.
Minnesota child care providers who oppose a union organization effort are poised to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court.
A news release today from the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota said the lawsuit will challenge child care unionization on constitutional grounds. It claims a vote would violate the providers' first amendment right of free political expression and association. Gov. Mark Dayton issued an executive order in November calling for a vote among thousands of state subsidized, in-home child care providers to vote on whether they want to join a union. Opponents filed an earlier lawsuit in Ramsey County, and Judge Dale Lindman issued a temporary restraining order that delayed the scheduled vote. That order will be revisited in a hearing Feb. 22.
The news release announcing the separate federal lawsuit quoted Jennifer Parrish, a child care provider from Rochester.
"We wish we didn't have to be in this position to begin with," Parrish said. "But since we were put in this position we do believe that this violates our first amendment rights and we intend to argue that in court."
The National Right to Work Foundation is providing legal assistance to the plaintiffs in the federal case.
Gov. Mark Dayton has unveiled a wish list of public works construction projects that includes regional civic centers, a St. Paul ballpark and some money for southwest corridor light rail line.
The $775 million bonding bill proposal also includes improvements college campus buildings, as well as roads and bridges. Dayton argues that a large bonding bill help get thousands of inactive construction workers back on the job. His estimate is 21,700 jobs. The ballpark and civic center projects have been proposed and rejected before. But during a news conference today, Dayton said he still believes those projects are important.
"I believe in downtowns," Dayton said. "I believe this is one of the essential roles that government plays in assisting the construction of projects that are going to produce an incredible economic return to the state, in the private sector, commercial activity the jobs it provides."
Republican legislative leaders were quick to criticize the Dayton proposal. In a news release, Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said it was fundamental difference in philosophy.
"The purpose and scope of the biennial bonding bill is to repair and build infrastructure, not to serve as stimulus or short-term jobs program," Senjem said. "We must be prudent about placing debt burden upon our children and grandchildren."
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, accused Dayton of following in the footsteps of Democrats in Washington with a misguided by stimulus package.
"In these economic times, a $775 million bonding bill that makes puts local spending projects on par with core infrastructure is unwise and ill-advised," Zellers said.
Gov. Mark Dayton has directed his transportation commissioner to come up with some new ways to pay for needed improvements in the the state's highway and transit systems.
Dayton announced today that MnDOT chief Tom Sorel will form a special finance advisory group, with a report due to the Legislature in December. During a Capitol news conference, Dayton said too many roads are deteriorated and congested. He also noted that current available transportation revenue is insufficient for the projected needs.
"I'm not interested in nickel and dime modifications to our status quo, because our status quo is getting worse," Dayton said. "I want to see what we can do in a really significant way that's going to change this template from continued deterioration to improvement."
Dayton suggested taking a more aggressive approach to bonding and tapping available federal funds. Sorel said MnDOT is already studying a potential tax on motorists based on the miles they drive.(1 Comments)
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton says he wants to give Minnesota businesses a $3,000 tax credit every time they hire some who is unemployed.
The proposal credit, which is the centerpiece of Dayton's jobs plan for the 2012 legislative session, would also apply to the hiring of veterans and recent graduates. Dayton says the plan is aimed at getting thousands of Minnesotans back to work. During a Capitol news conference today, Dayton said he also had a plan top pay for the new tax credits.
"We pay for that by closing some of the corporate loopholes to offset the $35 million price," Dyaton said. "It would put over 10,000 Minnesotans back to work, and I think that's a very good deal for Minnesota."
Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers said he supports the governor's goal but not his approach. In a news release, Zellers said Dayton's plan spends money without addressing critical reforms that businesses want, such as reduced regulations and a more competitive tax climate.
An advisory panel sent a report to the state Legislature today calling for a $241 million renovation of the Minnesota Capitol Building.
Members of the capitol preservation commission did not recommend how to pay for the project. The report outlined scenarios using up to three bonding bills to cover the full cost. Republican Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem raised concerns about the estimated price tag. Senjem said he'd prefer taking an incremental approach to the needed renovations.
"In my view you ought to probably take a look at the outside shell first," Senjem said. "Let's get the thing stabilized, and beyond that let's incrementally look at the systems and find out what the priorities are. Whether it's ventilation, whether it's electric whether it's office space or whatever. Make some assessments of that, or decisions on it, and kind of incrementally move through this."
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said the bonding proposal he'll unveil next week will not include the Capitol renovation, because that document is already at the printer. But Dayton said he hopes the Legislature considers at least part of the project during the 2012 session.
"We have to act," Dayton said. "I think it's clear that it's a public safety menace for the people who work here and the public that visits here."
Dayton said he would favor funding the renovation through no more than two bonding bills.
Gov. Mark Dayton says he has not seen Shakopee's new proposal for a Vikings stadium, but he's willing to consider it.
Dayton set a deadline for officials in Ramsey County and Minneapolis to present their finalized stadium proposals by Thursday evening. The mayor of Shakopee is now offering another stadium site, which is located near two state highways. Asked today about the late entery in the stadium sweepstakes, Dayton told reporters that he just learned about the Shakopee proposal. But Dayton said he'll consider all options.
"I don't think anything I've said would preclude that," Dyaton said. "Again, this is brand new to me, so I don't know what the -- I haven't looked at it at all. But sure, if they have a serious proposal and they want to submit it by by 5:00 tomorrow, I'd certainly be willing to look at it."
Shakopee officials are expected to outline their stadium plan late today during a Capitol news conference. The Vikings continue to prefer the Ramsey County site in Arden Hills.
By Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
Officials from Ramsey County have responded to Gov. Mark Dayton's deadline for stadium proposals.
The governor sent letters to Minneapolis and Ramsey County Thursday. Both are bidding to host the Minnesota Vikings with a replacement for the Metrodome.
Ramsey county board chairman Rafael Ortega says the county already has a complete package to offer. County officials struck a deal with the team in May to build on the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition plant in Arden Hills.
"We've been at this for a year. We've been vetted by everybody. We have a purchase agreement with the federal government. We have site control," Ortega said. "Our focus has been those 500 acres of polluted land — a great opportunity to finally do something with them. We create jobs and we put 170 acres back on the property tax rolls."
State officials rejected a sales tax proposal to help pay for the project. County officials have offered a 3 percent bar and restaurant tax instead.
Dayton asked local officials to include as much detailed information as possible, including the proposed means to financing a local share of the project. The proposals should include details about the Vikings' proposed share of the stadium financing. Dayton is collaborating with the two key stadium bill architects, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.
Dayton expects that the comparison of proposals will advance the stadium process.
Gov. Mark Dayton announced today the date for the release of his proposed bonding bill and the tentative date for his state of the state speech.
During a news conference, Dayton said he plans to unveil his bonding proposal on Jan. 17, which is a deadline required by statute. Dayton said his proposed list of public works projects is almost complete, and it would total $775 million in borrowing.
"There are just a lot of good projects," Dayton said. "More good projects than there are available resources, but that's not uncommon. I think it's a very strong set of proposals. It will provide several thousand jobs for people around Minnesota and makes some really necessary and important in investments in infrastructure around the state."
Dayton wants to deliver his second state of the state address on Feb. 15, in the House chamber. He's proposing to break from tradition and give the speech at 7:00 p.m., rather than midday. Dayton said the schedule for the speech is still tentative until House leaders agree.
Posted at 4:11 PM on January 5, 2012
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton will wait another month to fight a judge's temporary restraining order that delayed his plan for a unionization vote among state-subsidized child care workers.
A hearing was originally scheduled for January 17 to decide whether Ramsey County Judge Dale Lindman's order should be converted into a temporary injunction. Now, a summary judgement hearing is scheduled for February 22.
During an unrelated news conference today, Dayton said that the plaintiffs in the case requested the delay. He said both he and AFSCME, one of the labor unions trying to organize providers, agreed with the request.
The Childcare Freedom Coalition, a group opposing the unionization effort, issued a news release describing the summary judgement hearing as a way to streamline the legal process.
"We won a restraining order and the next step was a temporary injunction, then a permanent injunction," said coalition spokesman Jeff Davis. "By granting our request for summary judgment, the judge is cutting through all of that. The case has already been argued and it's time to put this to bed. This move will save us as well as Minnesota taxpayers needless added time and expense."
"It is now time to finalize the proposals of Arden Hills/Ramsey County and the City of Minneapolis, so that the Legislature can compare them, decide between them and act to make one of them a reality," Dayton wrote.
Dayton asked local officials to include as much detailed information as possible, including the proposed means to financing a local share of the project.
Dayton discussed the deadline during an afternoon news conference. He predicted that the comparison of proposals would advance the stadium process.
"I think the facts will speak for themselves in large part," Dayton said. "Some people have already made up there mind, they want this site or they want that site. But I think for general purposes among the Legislature and probably among the general public is what's the off? What the proposal? How good a deal is it? And I think one of them will show probably to be a better option than the other or the others, and that will facilitate everyone's decision."
Dayton said he expects the proposals to also include details about the Vikings' proposed share of the stadium financing. He said he was working in collaboration with the two key stadium bill architects, Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, and Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont.
One interesting part of the legal battle over redrawing the state's political boundaries is who is paying the attorneys in the case. A five judge panel has oral arguments over the proposed maps on Jan. 4. The court appointed panel is likely to determine the makeup of the state's political boundaries for Minnesota's 8 congressional districts and the 201 legislative districts. The state has to redraw the state's political boundaries once every ten years to ensure that each citizen is guaranteed equal representation under the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of Minnesota.
Attorneys representing the Republicans and the Democrats have been working to influence the court to adopt their proposed set of maps and redistricting criteria. MPR News has already reported that the public may never know who is paying the bulk of the legal fees in the battle. It's also possible that the high-profile attorneys in the case could receive taxpayer money for their efforts.
Arguments are being made before the panel to declare the state's current political boundaries unconstitutional because the boundaries don't provide equal representation under the U.S. Constitution. If the court declares the boundaries unconstitutional, federal law could allow the court to order "a reasonable attorney's fees as part of the costs" under the Civil Rights Act. (Note: It shouldn't come as a surprise that the boundaries don't meet constitutional muster since the entire point of redistricting is resetting the boundaries after the once-a-decade census is taken).
There is some precedent for the court to award fees to attorneys involved in the redistricting battle. In 2002, the redistricting panel at the time ordered the state of Minnesota to pay $368,430 to the four sets of attorneys in the case. The panel relied on the argument that the all of the parties "prevailed" in the case and were awarded the funds. The panel put forward a set of maps that relied on input from all of the parties involved.
One key question for the current five-judge panel is how they will interpret which party prevails in the case. It's unlikely that the panel will adopt a set of maps that are identical to the proposals put forward by the parties. If history is a guide, the court will draw a new set of boundaries that relies on input from all of the parties involved. If that's the case, all of the parties could be eligible for attorneys fees from the state's treasury.
To date, the five-judge panel tasked with drawing the state's political boundaries has been reluctant to address the issue. The court heard arguments on the matter in October but declined to act at the time. Presiding Judge Wilhelmina Wright issued an order Friday saying she will not allow arguments on the constitutionality of the current boundaries at its hearing on Jan. 4.
One group that could prevent taxpayer money from being spent on attorney's fees is Gov. Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature. The two sides have until Feb. 21 to agree on a set of maps. If that happens, the court won't have to step in and take over the process. Gov. Dayton and GOP legislators have said, however, that it's unlikely they will reach an agreement.
Tom Crann, host of MPR's All Things Considered program, interviewed Gov. Dayton about the controversy surrounding Sen. Amy Koch, the prospects for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium and his track record during his first year in office.
Dayton declined to discuss how he thinks the Senate should handle the Koch matter.
"I don't know if that's something I can be commenting on," Dayton said. "It's up to the Senate to resolve this and the Republican caucus to resolve. Their choice of a new leader will say a lot about how they view what's occurred and how they intend to proceed in the future."
Koch issued a statement last night that apologized for having an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer. Senate Republicans are scheduled to meet on Tuesday to elect a new majority leader.
Dayton declined to say whether the next majority leader will have an impact on his push to get a new Vikings stadium built.
"It depends on who the next majority leader is," Dayton said. "Obviously the Senate majority Leader and the Speaker of the House have almost complete control of the agenda of their respective bodies, if one or both of them want to duck the issue and avoid dealing with it until after the next election then they owe that explanation to the people of Minnesota."
Dayton said some of his accomplishments in his first year in office were enacting legislation that spent money on public works projects, saved $500 million in taxpayer money from requiring HMOs to big competitively for people on subsidized health insurance and praised the state's Education Commissioner for winning federal money through a Race to the Top grant.
Dayton says one of his biggest regrets was not getting his income tax hike on top earners enacted into law.
Dayton also told MPR News that his son, Eric, is getting married next week to Cornelia Oehler in San Francisco.
You can listen to the entire interview here: Listen(1 Comments)
Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers is scheduled to speak at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Jan. 19. Zellers will preview the 2012 legislative session which begins on Jan. 24. The event takes place from Noon - 1:15 p.m. at the Cowles Auditorium on the University of Minnesota's campus.
GOP Sen. Amy Koch issued a statement today apologizing her behavior. She issued the statement after MPR News contacted her today to comment that her former chief of staff, Cullen Sheehan, said Koch and the unnamed male staffer acknowledged the relationship to him. Read the story here.
Here's Koch's statement:
In a letter dated 12.15.11, I announced that I was resigning as Majority Leader for personal reasons. I have made some mistakes and errors in judgment for which I am deeply sorry by engaging in a relationship with a Senate staffer. While I have not violated any laws or Senate rules, nor misused any state funds or property, I want to express my deep regret and apologies to my constituents, the Republican party, my fellow legislators, friends and most importantly, my family. I regret more than words can express the hurt that I have caused to the people that I love, and to those who have worked and served with me over the past years.
The events of recent days have been very difficult for me and those close to me. It is important that I spend time now focusing on the challenging days ahead as I work through some very personal issues.
Republicans in the Minnesota Senate will hold a private caucus on Tuesday, Dec. 27 to elect a new Majority Leader of the Minnesota Senate The group has to get together for the vote since Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, announced on Thursday that she was resigning from her leadership position. Koch quit one day after four Republican Senators confronted her over an inappropriate relationship that she allegedly had with a male staffer. The staffer has not been released and Koch has not returned calls since the allegations surfaced.
The majority leader is the most powerful member of the Senate and is responsible for appointing committee chairs, organizing floor hearings, setting the Senate budget and assembling staff. Several people, including David Hann of Eden Prairie, Geoff Michel of Edina, Dave Thompson of Lakeville and Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria, have expressed interest in the position.
Meanwhile, a Wednesday hearing scheduled to discuss the Senate budget has been canceled. Senate GOP spokesman Chris Van Guilder says the Rules Committee hearing was canceled to allow the next majority leader to have input. Koch currently chairs the committee and there were some uncertainties as to whether anyone else could call the hearing. Van Guilder says Koch and Interim Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel decided to cancel the meeting. Michael Jungbauer of East Bethel is also lobbying the public for the job.
"Sen Michel spoke with Sen Koch and they decided together to move the date to allow the newly-elected leader the opportunity for additional input," Van Guilder wrote in an e-mail.
DFL Sen Al Franken will speak before the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs on Jan. 17. Franken will speak about STEM Education, a push to get more kids to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. He has been working on the federal level to get students more focused on that curriculum.
The event is free and open to the public. Here are the details:
Senator Al Franken
STEM Education: The Key to Minnesota's Economic Success
Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
Noon - 1:15 p.m.
Humphrey School of Public Affairs
301 19th Ave S., Minneapolis
Republican leaders in the Minnesota Senate today said Amy Koch stepped down as Senate Majority Leader yesterday after they confronted her about allegations that she engaged in an inappropriate relationship with a male staffer. Koch abruptly resigned on Thursday, surprising some of her closest colleagues. She said at the time that she felt it was time to resign her position.
Interim Senate Majority Leader Geoff Michel said they confronted Koch after several staffers complained Koch's inappropriate relationship with a male staffer caused them considerable discomfort.
"None of us are perfect," Michel said. "We don't claim to be. We want to be proud of the Minnesota Senate and how it's run. We understand that's a special obligation on those of us to maintain the high standards."
Michel said Koch did not confirm or deny the allegations. She did not return calls to MPR News today.
Michel would not identify the Senate staffer in question except to say it was a man.
Here's the audio from today's news conference that included Senator Michel, GOP Sen. David Senjem, GOP Sen. David Hann and GOP Sen. Chris Gerlach: Listen(2 Comments)
Ramsey County Commissioners Tony Bennett and Rafael Ortega are proposing a countywide 3 percent sales taxes on food and beverages to pay for a new Vikings stadium in Arden Hills. They say the tax will raise $24 million a year to finance $350 million of the $1.1 billion stadium.
"We continue to believe that the Vikings are a statewide asset and our preference is for a statewide funding solution for the people's stadium," Ortega and Bennett wrote in the letter. "However, because we believe in the viability of the Arden Hills site, we are willing to put forth funding alternatives beyond the earlier sales tax proposals that were removed from consideration by state officials earlier this year."
Ramsey County was pushing for a half cent sales tax increase to pay for the stadium but Republicans in the Legislature insisted that voters approve the measure. Both Bennett and Ortega said there is precedent to allow local governments to increase food and beverage taxes without voter approval.
"As you know, various revenue sources have been authorized in previous legislation for numerous cities and counties in Minnesota. This includes authorizations for special local taxes on food and beverages, liquor, lodging, entertainment and admissions that do not have local referenda requirements by state statutes."
Ramsey County and the Vikings are pushing to build the stadium in Arden Hills. They say it's the best option to give fans a "game day experience." Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has been pushing for the new stadium to be built in Minneapolis. He suggested relying on an expansion of gambling and sales tax money collected for the city's convention center.
Gov. Dayton has said he doesn't have a preferred site location but would like to see the Legislature address the issue this session.
Here's the letter from Bennett and Ortega:2 Comments)
GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch abruptly resigned her position today and announced she won't seek re-election.
Koch has been unavailable to comment.
Koch says there's no hidden agenda behind her decision. She said she decided to step down because it's time to try other things.
"I want to explore some other options. I want to spend a little time with my daughter. I think it's ok to pass off the baton."
Koch, who has considered possible runs for higher office like Congress and Governor in the past, says no such run is in her future. She wouldn't rule out a run for office in the future but said it's not in her immediate plans. She said it's more likely that she'll end up in the private sector than on an election ballot. She said she'll continue to serve out her term but decided to step down because she didn't believe the caucus should be represented by a lame duck Majority Leader.
"I'll continue to support the caucus. I love them all. I'll support the new Majority Leader. I'm excited what I see in 2012. I'll be a part of that but just not in front of the cameras and the microphones maybe..."
Some senators didn't even know the announcement was coming.
"It's a total surprise," Sen. David Hann, R- Eden Prairie, told MPR News.
Gov. Dayton issued this statement:
"I personally regret Senator Koch's decision to step down as Majority Leader of the Minnesota Senate and not to seek reelection. I have developed great respect for her during the past year of working together. She has been an excellent leader of her Caucus and, while we often disagree, a strong advocate for her beliefs.
"I wish Senator Koch my very best for her continued success in future endeavors."
GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers issued this statement:
"Senator Koch made history this year, and it was truly an honor and a privilege to work with her during her time as Majority Leader. Her contributions to our state and its future made Minnesota better. Amy is a dear friend and I will truly miss working with her on a daily basis. She's a role model and a natural leader. I wish nothing but the best to Amy and her family."
MNGOP Acting Chair Kelly Fenton issued this statement:
"I want to thank Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch for her service and leadership over the past year as our first female Senate Majority Leader. Senator Koch has helped lead our state during these difficult economic times, and her policies have helped bring about a projected surplus in Minnesota. She has fought hard for Minnesota families and small businesses, and has put our state in a great position as we head into the New Year. Many thanks to Senator Koch for her incredible service and leadership."
DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk issued this statement:
"I was shocked to hear the news of Sen. Koch's decision to step down as Majority Leader of the Minnesota Senate. While we have had many disagreements over policy and politics while serving as leaders of our respective caucuses, Amy always treated our caucus fairly and was extremely forthright and honest in all of our private discussions and negotiations. I have nothing but respect for her as a colleague, and wish her well in her future endeavors."
We're chasing the story but here's her letter:4 Comments)
Posted at 1:54 PM on December 15, 2011
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton was among 16 Democratic governors who sent a letter to Congressional leaders today seeking swift passage of unemployment compensation benefits. They want a one-year extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Program and full funding of the Extended Benefits Program. Both are set to expire on Dec. 31.
"We are extremely concerned about the potential impact of the expiration of these programs on families and our economic recovery as a whole," the governors wrote. "Unless Congress extends these programs before adjourning for the holidays, nearly 2 million unemployed workers will lose this critical support in January 2012 alone. Now is not the time to turn our backs on hard-working Americans. Individuals who are laid off through no fault of their own rely on these funds to support their families."
The governors also stressed that extending unemployment insurance is critical to speeding up the economic recovery process.
Gov. Dayton said on MPR's Midday program today that his biggest regrets of his first year in office are the 20 day state government shutdown in July and his failure to increase income taxes on Minnesota's top earners. Dayton said he would continue to push for his tax increase proposal in 2013 regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats control the Legislature.
He also said he's interested in getting a bonding bill and Vikings stadium plan passed in the upcoming legislative session. He said he would do everything he possibly can to ensure the Vikings stadium issue is resolved next year.
"This one has been festering for so long," Dayton said.
The governor defended his push for a new Vikings stadium saying it would provide jobs for construction workers. He said that he's also considering spending some state money to redevelop the Arden Hills ammunition plant even if a proposed Vikings stadium is built elsewhere.
Vikings owners and Ramsey County are pushing to build the stadium in Arden Hills and say cleaning up the site is one of the benefits of the project. Dayton hasn't taken a position on whether the new stadium should be built in Arden Hills or Minneapolis but said it's worth cleaning up the site so it's available for other uses.
"It's the largest unused plot of land in our entire metropolitan area," Dayton said. "What's standing in the way is an estimated $30 million of cleaning it up, and that's a good thing to do for the residents in the area as well as future development."
Dayton also said he was pleased to see the state is showing a surplus in the current budget cycle. He said the law requires the $871 million surplus to be put into the state's reserves but suggested that he may look at trying to pay back some of the K-12 school funding shift if the February forecast continues to show a surplus of that size or more.
Dayton and lawmakers enacted a budget in July that relied on delayed payments to schools and borrowing against future tobacco payments to erase a $5 billion deficit.
Dayton also said he'd have to study a recommendation by a federal agency that says states should ban drivers from using cell phones except in emergencies. The National Transportation Safety Board made the recommendation today to improve safety. It would apply to both hands-free and hand-held phones and would also ban texting.
Dayton says the measure would improve public safety but said he'd have to determine whether the public would accept the ban and if such a law could be enforced.
"One of my philosophies about government is that we need to set rules or laws that we can enforce," Dayton said. "One of my frustrations with the HOV lanes, for example, is that people ignore it with impunity."
Minnesota law already bans drivers from texting. It also bans permit holders and those who have had their license for less than a year from talking on a cell phone while driving.
Dayton also said he intends to run for re-election, a claim he's made to several news organizations over the past few months. He said he also considers President Obama "a slight favorite" to win re-election next year but said an Obama victory depends on whether the economy continues to improve.
Dayton said he's going to work to get more businesses involved in K-12 schools, a pledge he made in his inaugural address in January. When a caller asked if his push was successful, Dayton responded that his office "dropped the ball" on the initiative. He said he'll continue to make the case for the initiative in the coming months but said he also learned several businesses already work with schools with little fanfare.
You can listen to Dayton's appearance here: Listen
and here: Listen
Gov. Mark Dayton and Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, are having another war of words.
This time, Dayton is taking issue with a fundraising letter that Parry sent out. Parry, who is running for Congress in Minnesota's 1st District, says Dayton was engaged in political payback when he issued an executive order that allowed a vote for some in-home day care providers to join a union.
"It's no secret that the labor unions helped buy the Governor's Office for Mark Dayton," Parry wrote in the fundraising letter. "In the past few months, he began to return the favor, most recently by trying to help unionize some of Minnesota's in-home, private child care providers."
Parry also called the measure a "backdoor-unionization attempt" and worked to tie 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz into the issue. Parry said Walz, his possible opponent for Congress, also wants to "expand union control."
Dayton wasn't happy with the fundraising letter.
"Sen. Parry, this email is inaccurate and deeply offensive," Dayton wrote in an e-mail to Parry and Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa. "This is the second time you have falsely accused me in writing of actions which, since untrue, wrongly malign my character and integrity."
Dayton canceled his meeting with Parry and Drazkowski as a result of Parry's fundraising letter and suggested he won't be meeting with Parry in the future.
"I will not meet with you and provide further fodder for your political activities," Dayton wrote. "If you have questions of me, submit them in writing, and I will respond in writing to them."
Parry, who chairs the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Budget and Policy Committee, responded to Dayton by saying the two need to work together to put the state on a sustainable fiscal path. He suggested they meet for coffee in the coming weeks to "bury the hatchet."
This isn't the first time Dayton and Parry have clashed. The two had a deep disagreement over the impact of the GOP budget plan on the state's Veterans programs.
I contacted the governor's office to get more details on the letter and this morning's meeting. I'll post an update if/when I get one.
Update: Gov. Dayton sent a follow up letter to Parry defending his executive order. He also said Parry's e-mail "slurs against my ethical conduct and my character." The governor said Parry should provide proof that Dayton is "returning the favor" to labor unions or retract his statements.
Dayton also said he's be willing to host a breakfast with Parry and Drazkowski on Dec. 14 or Dec. 15.
Some state legislators are warning that an anticipated dust-up over office space could derail the latest effort to renovate the Minnesota Capitol building.
Lawmakers are moving closer to approving a major restoration project, which has been estimated to cost more than $200 million. But architects are also looking at whether some Capitol tenants, including the Senate majority, should be permanently moved to other buildings. During a meeting of the capitol preservation commission today, Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said it will be hard to convince his colleagues to move their offices.
"It's going to take an awful lot of discussion, and it's going to have to be a good idea," Senjem said. "Because I think generally speaking, the majority party thinks for them at least being here works pretty well. It is a little parochial I will admit, but I think that's just the way it is."
Gov. Mark Dayton, whose office would be relocated at least temporarily, during the renovation, said lawmakers need to set aside their own personal preferences and self-interests for what's in the greater good.
"This is about the people of Minnesota," Dayton said.
The man who represented DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in a Ramsey County District Court hearing Monday says the governor now has three options in the legal fight over a unionization election for child care providers.
Solicitor General Alan Gilbert sent a letter to Dayton's office yesterday outlining the options, which were discussed the day before in a meeting with the governor and Attorney General Lori Swanson. Judge Dale Lindman issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) Monday to prevent the vote Dayton had called for in an executive order from moving ahead as schedule. Another hearing is set for
Jan. 16 Jan. 17, to decide whether the TRO should be converted to a temporary injunction.
Gilbert said Dayton can contest the court injunction at next month's hearing. He said a second option ould be to withdraw the executive order, which would make the litigation moot. Gilbert said the governor's third option is to appeal the TRP to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
Dayton's press secretary said this week that the governor is waiting to receive a written copy of Lindman's TRO before deciding his next step.
Dayton's office just announced that "the Governor has decided to contest the issuance of the Temporary Injunction," at next month's hearing.
One of the chief authors of the Vikings stadium bill says Ramsey County need to come up with other options for how to pay for a new stadium. Ramsey County officials were pushing for a local option sales tax to finance the stadium but lawmakers were cool to the idea because it would have needed voter approval.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, says the county should be looking at other options to finance a portion of the roughly $1 billion stadium.
"Ramsey County has made clear that there will be no property tax revenues generated for this," Lanning said. "There will be no local option sales tax available but you've got other taxes, hospitality taxes and other forms of raising revenue, that local units of government can decide to put in place without a referendum requirement."
Lanning has said some form of gambling expansion will also have to be on the table but he doesn't think it will generate enough to finance the stadium. Vikings officials say the Arden Hills site in Ramsey County are their first option.
Lanning says the earliest supporters will release a bill will be January(2 Comments)
A Ramsey County judge has blocked a a unionization vote among state-subsidized child care workers that was scheduled to begin this week.
Judge Dale Lindman issued a temporary restraining order today after hearing about three hours testimony. Lindman at least partially agreed with the plaintiffs, who argued that Gov. Mark Dayton exceeded his executive branch authority when he ordered a unionization election. The judge said he too thinks the process should start with the Legislature. Tom Revnew, an attorney for the 11 plaintiffs, said he was pleased with the ruling.
"The vote will not take place, at least as of Dec. 7," Revnew said. "The court will be reevaluating the circustamnces come January, when we're back back at a hearing. But at least temporarily, there will not be a vote."
Another hearing was scheduled for Jan. 16.
Gov. Dayton released a statement saying he respects the court decision, and that he plans to meet with the attorney general to consider the next steps. Dayton stressed that he still believes that "people should have the right to elections to determine their own destinies."
Roughly 350 Republican delegates and staffers are assessing the fallout less than 24 hours after Tony Sutton abruptly resigned as state party chair. Sutton cited personal reasons for his resignation but it came at a time when several activists were upset with how he handled the party's budget. Party officials announced at a meeting in Bloomington Saturday that the party was $581,000 in debt.
"Let's all take a deep breath," state Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, said during the invocation.
Delegates elected a new deputy chair on Saturday but were also facing a party that lost its chair, deputy chair and executive director over the last two months. The vacancies forced the delegates to even elect two convention chairs to run the meeting.
Delegates worked relatively quickly to elect new leadership. They elected Woodbury resident Kelly Fenton to the position of deputy chair. Fenton defeated four other candidates. She'll serve as acting chair until the same group, party's central committee, elects a new chair.
During a brief victory speech, Fenton alluded to the problems plaguing the party and predicted Republican candidates will do well in the 2012 election.
"We are stronger than any challenges that we will face," Fenton said.
Fenton said she will not be a candidate to replace Sutton but left open the possibility of running for party chair in the future.
Fenton's top priority over the next month will be to ease concerns about the party's financial problems and direction. She got some help from Republican Congressmen John Kline and Erik Paulsen.
"We have precinct caucuses in two months," Kline said. "We have to be organized and ready and moving out because as you may have noticed, the campaigns are underway."
Kline later told reporters that he wasn't deeply concerned about the party's leadership in the upcoming elections. Others said the party's day-to-day activities would run normally over the next month.
The stakes in the upcoming election are huge. President Barack Obama and DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar are both running for re-election. Republicans are waiting to see who wins the GOP nomination for president, and no top flight candidate has stepped forward to challenge Klobuchar.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who serves as RNC Committeeman, says he thinks President Obama's low approval ratings will help Republicans in 2012. But he said the party needs to raise money for get out the vote operations.
"We can't just stop for a month and then start up again when we have a permanent chair," Johnson said. Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers also said he would be willing to help raise money to get the party out of debt.
Zellers also asked delegates to not to do any "Monday morning quarterbacking" about Sutton's departure.
But there was some disagreement over who is to blame for the party's problems. Michael Brodkorb, who resigned his position as deputy chair in October to work on state Sen. Mike Parry's campaign for Congress in the 1st District, said the party's deficit and problems are a result of Tom Emmer's campaign for governor.
Brodkorb said Emmer ran a poor campaign which hurt the party's ability to raise money.
Brodkorb referred to Emmer as the "Bill Buckner of politics" - a reference to the Red Sox first baseman who made an error that cost his team the 1986 World Series.
"I think Republicans nominated the one candidate who couldn't possibly win in 2010," Brodkorb said.
Brodkorb also said the party had difficulty raising money because many donors weren't happy that he was the nominee. He also said several Republican candidates didn't want to campaign with Emmer because he was "toxic" to their campaigns.
Emmer narrowly lost the gubernatorial election to Democrat Mark Dayton. The close election forced a recount that both Brodkorb and Sutton blame for adding to the party's financial problems.
Emmer was at the State Central Committee earlier in the day but couldn't be reached to comment on Brodkorb's statement. His former campaign manager, David Fitzsimmons, said he was surprised by Brodkorb's criticism.
"I am not going to sit here today and try to decide who is to blame," Fitzsimmons said. "We can all go around and point fingers and do everything else. I'm part of being at this convention today to figure out how to move forward from here."
Delegates decided not to set a date to hold a meeting to elect a new party chair. The party's constitution requires an election to occur within 30 days, but the party's attorney said Fenton would continue to be acting chair if no election is held.
Fenton or the party's executive committee will call the next meeting.(6 Comments)
From MPR's Tom Weber....
In launching its new website Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Education also revealed a move in senior management.
The website's 'executive team' page now lists Charlene Briner as both chief of staff and communications director. She had previously only served as communications director; the chief of staff position did not exist.
Briner confirmed the move Thursday; she also confirmed Keith Hovis - a communications specialist in Gov. Mark Dayton's office - will move to the department in coming weeks in a 'senior communications position.'
Briner has been chief liaison between media and the department since her hiring in 2011. She's also often the point person who accompanies commissioner Brenda Cassellius to public events around the state.
Before 2011, Briner worked as a media specialist in the Minnesota House of Representatives - often working with state Rep. Mindy Greiling, DFL-Roseville, on education matters. Hovis was St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman's press secretary before being hired in the governor's office.
Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have agreed to join a lawsuit challenging Gov. Mark Dayton's recent order for a unionization vote among state-subsidized, in-home child care providers.
Members of the Senate Rules Committee approved a resolution today authorizing an amicus brief in support of a lawsuit filed earlier this week by 11 providers who oppose the union effort. Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, says Dayton over reached with his order and stepped into legislative territory. But Koch says a separate Senate lawsuit to try to stop the vote was not necessary.
"This other group is making those arguments, and so I think there's no reason to do a separate lawsuit or complicate the issue," Koch said. "But we definitely wanted to weigh in as a legislative body. We felt that it was our duty constitutionally to do that if the governor has over reached, and we believe he has, to step in."
Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, the only Democrat who attended the committee meeting, said the brief was unusual and motivated by politics. A hearing is scheduled Monday morning in Ramsey County District Court.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton sent a letter to House Republican leaders today defending his recent executive order for a unionization vote among some child care providers.
Last week, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood,
Dayton said the claim by Zellers and Dean that his order will raise the cost of child care is their opinion and not a fact. The governor also said it was appropriate to limit the vote to the roughly 43 hundred in-home providers who participate in a state-subsidized program.(1 Comments)
A group of 11 child care providers is filing a lawsuit today to try to stop a unionization vote next month.
The lawsuit claims Gov. Mark Dayton exceeded his authority when he ordered the vote among about 42-hundred state-subsidized child care providers. Two labor unions, SEIU and AFSCME Council 5, have been trying to organize providers throughout the state. But attorney Tom Revnew says the scheduled vote is unfair and unconstitutional, because it will exclude about 60-percent of Minnesota providers. Revnew also contends the vote will have an impact beyond the child care industry.
"If organized labor is allowed to unionize employers against their will through executive orders, and contrary to state and federal law, they will take other industries on one by one," Revnew said.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are backed by a coalition of conservative-leaning groups, including the Minnesota Family Council, Minnesota Free Market Institute and Minnesota Majority.
Brian Elliott, executive director of SEIU-Minnesota State Council, says similar executive orders have already been upheld in more than a dozen other states, and he insists union membership, as well as union dues, will be voluntary.
Eric Lehto, organizing director for AFSCME Council 5, described the lawsuit as "frivolous." He said the challenge is from "cheap-labor conservatives who oppose collective bargaining rights."(2 Comments)
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, sent a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton today asking him to stop next month's unionization vote among state-subsidized child care providers.
They want Dayton to rescind his recent executive order. Many Republicans argue Dayton doesn't have the legal authority to call the election. Zellers and Dean also disagree with Dayton's decision to limit participation to only about 4,000 of 11,000 providers, which they contend is "just as misguided as pursuing an executive order in the first place."
In addition, the GOP leaders wote that they believe the unionization would raise the cost of child care and decrease access to quality programs.
A spokeswoman for Dayton said yesterday that the governor will not rescind or adjust the order.
Posted at 10:25 AM on November 23, 2011
by Tim Pugmire
Filed under: Mark Dayton
Amid reports that American Crystal Sugar is beginning to hire replacement workers, Gov. Mark Dayton tried today to convince the company and its locked-out employees to renew negotiations aimed at ending the labor dispute.
Dayton issued the following statement:
"As Thanksgiving approaches, my heart goes out to the 1300 American Crystal Sugar workers in the Red River Valley, who have been locked out by their employer and are struggling to survive. After almost four months, the lockout has devastated families, communities, and the economy in Northwestern Minnesota. It is time for American Crystal's management to reach a fair agreement with its workers, who have contributed so much to the company's current profitability. The absence of meaningful negotiations is greatly disappointing, given the terrible divide this lockout has caused among people, who have lived and worked together. I strongly urge both parties to return to negotiations and find a solution that returns those locked out workers to their jobs and restores stability to the company and the communities in which it operates."
State finance officials say the cost of last summer's 20-day government shutdown was minimal.
"In broad terms, immediate shutdown costs were offset by estimated compensation savings," the report by Minnesota Management and Budget said.
The state agency says the state lost $50 million in things like tax collections and lottery receipts, spent $10 million on shutdown preparations and recovery costs and paid $10 million in unemployment benefits. But MMB Commissioner Jim Schowalter said the state and federal government saved about $65 million by not having to pay the 19,000 employees who were laid off during the shutdown.
"Where there was harm there was significant harm," Schowalter said. "Some places continued unaffected, others didn't continue and were completely shut down. So as a result, when you look at the impact of employees, those who continued to work were not so impacted. those who were laid off had substantial stresses and issues."
Schowalter said one reason the shutdown didn't have a bigger impact is because a judge ruled that about 80 percent of state spending had to continue during the shutdown.
The government shut down after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP legislative leaders failed to agree on a two-year budget by the end of the last fiscal year. The impasse forced state workers to be laid off, parks to close and many road construction projects to be mothballed.
Gov. Dayton issued this statement on the report:
"I am grateful that the report concludes there was no net cost to Minnesota taxpayers. Unfortunately, it also shows that the worst financial hardship fell upon state employees, who were involuntarily laid off."
Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, says the Senate GOP Caucus will push law changes to prevent any future shutdowns.
"I don't think anybody wants to contemplate additional political game playing around the state budget," Hann said. "We should be able to reach agreement to say that if we have not reached a budget agreement at the end of the time we're required, we should have the existing budget or some percentage of that budget be continued," Hann said.
Hann also said Dayton should get the blame for the shutdown - suggesting it was a political tool to get his tax hike passed into law.
But Eliot Seide, who represents the state employees union American Federation of State County and Municipals Employees Council 5, issued a statement saying the Republican majorities in the Legislature are to blame:
"State employees lost $65 million in wages because a gridlock group of tea party Republicans chose to protect millionaires instead of Minnesotans. They laid off 19,000 workers instead of creating jobs. They ruined family vacations at state parks, delayed road construction and disrupted people's lives in countless ways."
"AFSCME state employees do their part every day to make Minnesota a state that works. That's a stark contrast with the tea party Republicans who created a state that didn't work for 20 days."
Here's the full shutdown report:1 Comments)
DFL legislative plan pairs 35 House members, 13 Senate members
The DFL Party's proposed redistricting plan pairs 35 incumbents and creates 18 open seats in the Minnesota House. It also pairs 13 incumbents and creates three open seats in the Minnesota Senate. Here's the breakdown of the match-ups in the House and the Senate (the information was confirmed by both Republican and DFL sources).
Here are the House match-ups:
Carolyn McElfatrick (GOP)
DFLer Tom Anzelc (DFL)
Larry Howes (GOP)
John Persell (DFL)
Torry Westrom (GOP)
Bud Nornes (GOP)
Paul Anderson (GOP)
Mary Franson (GOP)
Sondra Erickson (GOP)
Roger Crawford (GOP)
Larry Hosch (DFL)
Steve Gottwalt (GOP)
Dean Urdahl (GOP)
Ron Shimanski (GOP)
Glenn Gruenhagen (GOP)
Ernie Leidiger (GOP)
Paul Torkelson (GOP)
Tony Cornish (GOP)
Tim Kelly (GOP)
Steve Drazkowski (GOP)
Kelby Woodard (GOP)
Mark Buesgens (GOP)
Michael Beard (GOP)
Jennifer Loon (GOP)
Branden Peterson (GOP)
Tom Hackbarth (GOP)
Peggy Scott (GOP)
Bob Dettmer (GOP)
Bob Barrett (GOP)
Tim Sanders (GOP)
Linda Runbeck (GOP)
Bev Scalze (DFL)
Carol McFarlane (GOP)
60B (Note - Downey moved into a new home so there's disagreement as to whether he would face Hornstein or DFL Rep. Steve Simon)
Keith Downey (GOP)
Frank Hornstein (DFL) or Simon (DFL)
Here's the breakdown from the Minnesota Senate:
John J. Carlson (GOP)
Tom Saxhaug (DFL)
Gary Kubly (DFL)
Gary Dahms (GOP)
Al DeKruif (GOP)
Mike Parry (GOP)
(Note: Parry is running for Congress in Minnesota's 1st District)
David Hann (GOP)
Geoff Michel (GOP)
Benjamin Kruse (GOP)
Chris Eaton (DFL)
Michelle Benson (GOP)
Roger Chamberlain (GOP)
Michael Jungbauer (GOP)
Here's the statewide map:
Martin Intervenors Legislative_Statewide -2
Here's the Metro map:
Martin Intervenors Legislative_Metro-4
Here's the Minneapolis/St. Paul map:
Martin Intervenors Leg Mpls-StPaul
Gov. Dayton says his administration will release a report that details the cost of last summer's three-week state government shutdown that occurred over the summer.
"I believe they're finalizing it right now and I'm told I'm going to get a draft over the weekend and it will come out next week," Dayton told MPR News.
State finance officials have been detailing how much it cost the state of Minnesota to prepare for the shutdown and then close many agencies. Many state agencies were shuttered and thousands of state employees were laid-off after Dayton and the Republican controlled Legislature failed to reach agreement on a budget-balancing plan.
The two sides finalized a budget plan that relied on spending cuts, a plan to delay payments to schools and borrowing against future tobacco payments.
State finance officials announced on Thursday that they sold $757 million of tobacco bonds as a part of the budget solution. The state will end up paying more than $1.2 billion to borrow $640 million.
Minnesota Finance officials say they have sold $757 million in bonds tied to the state's future tobacco payments. Minnesota Management and Budget says it finalized the bond sale - a move that was needed to help close the state's budget gap. $640 million of the $757 million bond sale will go to fix the state's budget deficit. The remaining $117 million will go into a special account to cover the cost of issuing the bonds and creating a reserve to pay back bondholders. The bonds are backed by future payments from the state's 1998 settlement with tobacco companies. The state will eventually pay bondholders $1.2 billion over the life of the 20 year bonds.
Governor Dayton and the Republican-controlled Legislature used the tobacco bonds to help end a three week government shutdown. Critics of the sale say the one-time money doesn't address structural problems in the state's budget. They say only permanent tax increases and/or spending cuts will do that.
You can read more about the sale here.
Gov. Dayton says he thinks it's growing more unlikely that he'll call a special session to address the Vikings stadium issue.
"I'm doubtful that there will be a special session at this point given the pace of progress," Dayton told reporters today.
He said he wants to meet with Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, once they craft their stadium bill. The two lawmakers met last night with other stadium supporters in the Legislature who call themselves the stadium working group to discuss alternatives. Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, says the group is making progress but is still working through details of how the stadium will be financed and where it should be built.
Dayton says he's still pushing for a deadline so lawmakers work with some urgency.
"I don't believe we're going to get to a specific proposal until some kind of deadline is established," Dayton said. "Otherwise it will just drag on."
Meanwhile, architects for three different stadium proposals in Minneapolis will release their proposals tonight at the bi-monthly meeting of the 2020 Partners.
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed an executive order today authorizing a union vote for thousands of state-susidized, in-home day care providers in Minnesota.
The order directs the State Bureau of Mediation Services to conduct the election, which will be scheduled in December. Membership would be voluntary if providers approved the unionization. During a news conference, Dayton acknowledged his support in general for labor unions. But he stressed his action was only mandating a vote.
"I've heard and met with both proponents and opponents of this measure," Dayton said. "So, it seems to me that given there is that dispute among those child care providers, the fairest way and the American way to resolve that dispute is through an election."
Republicans have been anticipating the action for weeks and questioning Dayton's authority to order such a vote. Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, repeated that charge after Dayton's announcement. Hann, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, also threatened a legal fight.
"If you have a governor who's not willing to follow the law, then we have no choice but as a Legislature to go to an appropriate court and say you need to stop the governor from proceeding in this action because he is not warranted by law to do it," Hann said.
MPR's Tom Scheck contributed to this report.
The 2011 St. Cloud State University survey finds that President Obama would face the stiffest challenge from former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. 45 percent of those polled say they would back Obama. 39 percent say they would back Romney. 7 percent of those polled said they would support "someone else." 9 percent of those polled are undecided. (Note: the pollster said they included a "someone else category in each question).
In a head to head with former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain, Obama received 47 percent support. Cain got 36 percent support. 8 percent said they would vote for "someone else." 9 percent said they "didn't know."
The poll also found that GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann isn't getting any home state support. Just 25 percent of those polled support Bachmann in a head to head match-up with Obama. 53 percent of those polled back the president. 16 percent said they support "someone else." Six percent were undecided.
The survey found 41 percent of those polled rate President Obama's job as performance as excellent or pretty good while 59 percent rate it as only fair or poor.
The poll also found that the state is closely divided on a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. It finds that 47 percent of those polled do not support amending the state's constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman. 44 percent support the proposal. 9 percent of those polled either refused to answer or were undecided.
The SCSU researchers also tried to measure how attitudes toward religion might affect answers to the marriage question. The survey found that 57 percent of those who said religion was important in their lives were in favor of the amendment, compared to 29 percent of the group who said religion was not important.
The survey also found that 55 percent think the state is on the wrong track and also found that unemployment and job opportunities are the top issue facing the state. The budget, the economy, education funding, politics/politicians and taxes are also top concerns.
A majority of those polled, or 55 percent, blame this summer's state government shutdown on the Minnesota Legislature. 18 percent blame Governor Dayton. 18 percent say they're both to blame.
The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus five percentage points.
You can read the news release on the poll here.
Here are the poll results released by SCSU Professor Steve Frank:
Ramsey County says it has struck a deal with the federal government to purchase the land for an Arden Hills Vikings stadium-- and that it'll be under budget and cleaned up when the deal gets done.
County officials delivered a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton's office this afternoon. It says the county has a formal Offer to Purchase from the General Services Administration for a 430 acre Arden Hills stadium site, and that it's "within the $30 million budgeted for the acquisition and clean up of the property."
The letter doesn't give a firm dollar figure, but says the county will be allowed to deduct the price of cleaning the place up from the purchase price.
There's a second clause as well: the county says it has a fixed price quote from "an experienced local contractor with substantial experience on the TCAAP property" that "caps the demolition, hazardous waste abatement and remediation costs at a dollar amount that is significantly less than the amount of credit available to the County against the GSA's proposed price."
And finally, the letter says that the offer commits the cleanup contractor to have the stadium footprint available within 9 months of signing a contract.
That's in stark contrast to the doubts raised in an October report from the Metropolitan Council that pegged the land acquisition and clean up costs between $23 million and $70 million. The upside of that range was described as a significant risk factor in calculating the cost of the deal.
"We believe the county has now addressed the primary cost concerns raised by your analysis," the letter concludes.
Read it for yourself here:10 Comments)
Gov. Dayton says one Republican member of the Minnesota Senate is putting the lives of sick children and the elderly in jeopardy by putting a hold on federal funds directed to the state of Minnesota.
Dayton says Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, requested a review of $25 million in federal health care grants - essentially putting a hold on the funds. Dayton said Hann's action may be unconstitutional.
"That any single legislator could arbitrarily and unilaterally block money that comes from the federal government through a competitive grant process, a lawful process, and be used for the benefit for Minnesotans all over the state," Dayton said. "To have all of that blocked by one member of the Legislature is to me just undemocratic."
Dayton says his administration will try to convince Legislative leaders to approve the funding. If they don't approve, the administration can request a hearing from the Legislative Advisory Commission and can eventually get the money. Dayton says his concern is that the federal government could choose to give the money to another state in the meantime.
Hann is holding a 1 p.m. news conference to react to Dayton's assertion. Hann is defending his decision to raise questions about federal health care grants given to the state. Governor Dayton today criticized Hann for playing politics with money that will help the sick and elderly. Hann, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said the Dayton Administration shouldn't have sole power to determine how to spend federal grants.
"My intent, as I said, was to make sure that we had a chance for the Legislature more than just me to look at this," Hann said. "I don't think I should be the guy that determines whether or not we should spend $60 million or not. I don't think the governor should be either. I think that's something for the public and the Legislature to do in the light of day."
Hann said state commissioners who oversee the grant money assured him that no one would be harmed if the money wasn't released immediately. He says he intends to hold a hearing on the federal funds.
In the meantime, here's his letter:2 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton has named a 15-member task force to look for ways to expand access to broadband Internet across Minnesota.
Dayton's goals for the effort include border-to-border access to high-seed services for homes, schools and businesses. He wants to make Minnesota a top-five state for broadband access by 2015. An initial proposal for addressing the access disparities is due by the end of January. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman says the expansion is critical to the state's economic recovery and long-term prosperity. Rothman says 3.4 percent of the state still needs broadband infrastructure. He says that's nearly 66,647 homes, mostly in rural areas, without access.
" We need to take a look at what's called the last mile, the middle mile, and how to get the build out to homes in those areas," Rothman said. "Those are the challenges."
Dayton appointed former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who directs the Minnesota High Tech Association, to chair the task force. Kelliher was one of Dayton's DFL rivals in the 2010 campaign for governor. Another rival in that campaign, Matt Entenza, was appointed by Dayton last week to serve on a new Sunset Advisory commission.
With MPR's Rupa Shenoy...
The five-member panel charged with redrawing the state's political boundaries issued an order today detailing the criteria they will use to draw those maps.
For the first time, the panel said the metropolitan area should be regarded as 11 counties, not seven. As a result more exurban counties could be tied into districts in suburban and urban areas.
That was an approach Republicans favored, said Elizabeth Brama who represents the Republican party on redistricting. She said it's unclear what effect the change will have.
"I don't think it's a question of one party or the other benefiting," Brama said. "I think it's more a question of just fairly representing where the people in the state of Minnesota live and how they organize themselves."
Brama said the council's decision may reflect how people in ex-urban counties formerly considered rural may now see themselves as more urban.
DFL party chair Ken Martin wasn't surprised by those changes.
"I think it's pretty pro forma and certainly establishes a lot of the same principles that were in place ten years ago," Martin said. "Again, without discussing this further with my team and being able to look at it more in detail, I can't comment any more than that. But on the surface I think it's fine. I don't think it give any party an advantage over another."
The court order also suggests that it will consider communities of interest to include "social, geographic, political, cultural, ethnic, economic or other interests." Attorneys for the DFL Party were arguing that those communities of interest are critical to redrawing the lines.
The five-member panel is tasked with creating a set of maps for the state's eight congressional districts and 201 legislative districts if Gov. Dayton and the GOP-controlled Legislature can't agree on a map. Dayton vetoed a GOP plan earlier this year and he suggested it's unlikely an agreement can be reached before the Feb. 21 deadline. The court will take over the process at that time.
You can read the full order here.
Minnesota Management and Budget announced today that Minnesota's next revenue forecast will be released on Dec. 1.
The forecast gauges the state's tax collections and spending obligations. It also gives a good sense on the state's current and future economic conditions.
Gov. Dayton and the GOP controlled Legislature enacted a two-year budget into law in July. The next forecast gives them a blueprint as to how the state's budget stays in balance through the biennium.
No one is expecting good news. State Economist Tom Stinson told MPR News in October that
"It's going to be difficult, maybe even impossible, for us to not have a shortfall in November," Stinson said.
Governor Dayton says he's open to asking the state's tribal leaders for a contribution to pay for a new Vikings stadium.
Dayton's spokeswoman told MPR News that Dayton's deputy chief of staff met with lobbyists representing the Mille Lacs Band of the Ojibwe and Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Those tribes run two of the largest tribal casinos in the state. Dayton told MPR News that he hasn't spoken directly with tribal leaders but he endorsed the idea of asking them to make a contribution to help pay for a stadium.
"That's a possibility," Dayton told MPR News. "And in fact, it was evidently discussed last night at the working group of a number of legislators and they may initiate that. I think it's a good idea but I have not done it myself."
Dayton said lawmakers were also going to approach lobbyists for the tribes to "get an idea of what they would support and what they would oppose and what they would most oppose."
The state's tribes are lobbying against efforts to build a casino in downtown Minneapolis or allowing slot machines at the state's two horse tracks. Those are two of the options being considered as ways to pay for a new Vikings stadium.
John McCarthy with the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association says he doesn't think tribal leaders are open to helping pay for the Vikings. He said many of the state's tribes can't fund all of their needs.
"I don't think they have really seriously thought about it because it's not something that they can do," McCarthy said. "The wherewithal is simply not there. They don't have that kind of revenue to be spending on a Vikings stadium when they don't have enough revenue to provide enough housing, and health care and education and public safety to their own folks on the reservation."
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community gave $10 million to the University of Minnesota a few years ago to help build the U of M's stadium. McCarthy, however, said there is a difference between that donation and any suggestion to help pay for a new Vikings stadium.
"It's a totally different issue," McCarthy said. "A state university versus independent, very wealthy people in the Vikings. It's like apples and oranges there."
Several Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature are opposed to allowing for slot machines at the state's horse tracks or building a casino in downtown Minneapolis. The state's tribes have given heavily to Democrats in recent years.
Dayton, however, hasn't shied away from suggesting that an expansion of gambling is needed. He said during the 2010 campaign for governor that a state owned and operated casino could help balance the state's budget.
"I think for there to be a government-protected monopoly on that in the metro area is not in the best interest of the people in Minnesota," Dayton said during the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce debate in August of 2010.
"We need the revenues. Competition is good for retailers as my family has learned. They're good for politicians and I think it's good for casino operators as well."
One option that the state's tribes won't lobby against is to allow the state's charities to move from traditional paper pull-tabs to electronic pull-tabs. McCarthy said they don't like the idea but don't consider it "an expansion of gambling."
MPR News took a look at the revenue projections that say electronic pull-tabs could generate as much as $42 million a year and said the estimates are on shaky ground.
Gov. Dayton's spokesman Bob Hume says Dayton will meet with GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers, GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and GOP Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk at 3 p.m. today. The group will discuss financing options for a new Vikings stadium. They will also discuss Zellers e-mail that said he will not support a special session to address the stadium. Zellers sent the private statement to House Republicans last night. It caught many off guard who are watching stadium talks, since Zellers has not said that publicly.
With MPR's Tim Nelson...
Gov. Dayton hopes to meet with GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers and other legislative leaders to discuss an e-mail Zellers sent to GOP House members yesterday. The e-mail said Zellers does not support a special session to pass a financing plan for a new Vikings stadium. That could scuttle any efforts to get a Vikings stadium bill passed this year, because the Vikings want a deal in place before the team's lease with the Metrodome expires in January. Zellers has not returned repeated calls to comment about his e-mail.
Dayton initially called a news conference for 11 a.m. to discuss the e-mail but canceled it after he spoke privately with Zellers.
Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, and Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, both say they support Zellers decision to oppose a special session.
"I think the speaker reflects the will of the majority of the House of Representatives," Garofalo said. "Clearly any bill's going to require bipartisan support and as of right now, I'm not aware of any House Democrat who has stated his support for a special session."
Meanwhile, Minnesota Vikings officials say they're disappointed by the Zellers e-mail. Vikings vice president Lester Bagley said the team doubts the wisdom of putting off legislative action until next year's short legislative session.
"The strategy of avoiding the stadium issue in Minnesota has not worked," Bagley said. "It only gets more costly, more difficult to resolve, especially if the state allows the lease to expire with no action, Bagley said. "The lease expires in less than 90 days, and at that point we will be the only NFL team without a lease. So we believe this needs to get into focus before the lease expires at the end of the season."
The team has proposed a $1.1 billion dollar stadium in Arden Hills, although that was thrown in doubt yesterday, when Dayton and legislative leaders ruled out a sales tax contribution to the deal by Ramsey County.
GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers says he won't support a special session in November to pass a bill that would finance a new Vikings stadium. The move is a major barrier for stadium backers since Gov. Dayton insists he won't call a special session without prior approval from legislative leaders.
Supporters of a new stadium say they were hoping the Legislature could pass a Vikings stadium bill before the November forecast is released. There have also been concerns that the Vikings' lease with the Metrodome expires before session starts on Jan. 24.
Zellers, from Maple Grove, says he has told Gov. Mark Dayton "repeatedly" that he would not support a special session for a Vikings stadium. That's according to an e-mail Zellers sent to the GOP caucus yesterday.
Here's the full e-mail, which was obtained by MPR News:
Dear GOP Members:
I am writing to provide you with an update regarding the Vikings stadium issue.
This afternoon, Governor Dayton agreed to drop his earlier support to exempt a referendum for both Arden Hills and Minneapolis. As you know, I have been insistent that an imposition of a sales tax must include, at a minimum, a referendum.
Again, I want to be clear about my position regarding a special session for a Vikings stadium. I have repeatedly told Governor Dayton that I will not support a special session for a Vikings stadium. This issue can be addressed during the regular session. I will continue to communicate this message to the governor, legislative leaders, the public and media.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Speaker Kurt Zellers
State Representative, District 32B
463 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
Editor's Note: Prior to this e-mail Zellers has been tepid about the need for a special session for a Vikings stadium but he hasn't come out and said directly that he would not support a special session to solve the stadium issue.
Gov. Dayton and the four legislative leaders say there isn't support in the Legislature to exempt Ramsey County or Minneapolis from holding a referendum on a sales tax increase to pay for the Vikings stadium.
Officials on both sides of the river had proposed a sales tax increase to help pay for the new stadium. Ramsey County proposed a half cent sales tax increase to raise $350 million for a $1.1 billion stadium in Arden Hills.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said a sales tax increase of 0.35 percent in Minneapolis could help pay for a stadium on one of three sites in his city. Rybak, however, also proposed a downtown casino as a way to raise the city's share of the stadium.
Dayton says he is "now actively assessing and discussing with the team other financing options." He plans to release his own stadium proposal next week and wants to call a special session for the week of Nov. 21.
Here's the statement from Dayton, GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers, GOP Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk:
Statement on Vikings Stadium talks
Saint Paul--At last Friday's meeting of Legislative Leaders: Senators Amy Koch, Julie Rosen, Terri Bonoff, and Richard Cohen; Speaker Kurt Zellers; Representatives Morrie Lanning, Paul Thissen, and Terry Morrow; with Governor Dayton and Chairman Ted Mondale, the consensus among the legislative leadership was that there was not sufficient support in either body to exempt Ramsey County or the City of Minneapolis from holding a referendum on increasing a local sales tax to finance a Vikings stadium. The participants requested the weekend to assess that conclusion.
Today, Governor Dayton and the Leaders of the Republican and DFL Caucuses in the House and Senate reaffirm that there is not majority support in either body for an exemption from a voter referendum. Without such an exemption, the earliest either Ramsey County or the City of Minneapolis could conduct a referendum would be in conjunction with the November 2012 General Election.
Governor Dayton said, "Last Friday's meeting was very significant in eliminating one proposed source of financing for a People's Stadium in either Ramsey County or Minneapolis, unless the Vikings are willing to endure the time delay and continuing uncertainty in obtaining voters' approval. Given this reality, we are now actively assessing and discussing with the team other financing options."
# # #