Movement at Capitol, as deadline nearsby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Big developments at the Capitol today signal the end of the legislative session may be in sight.
Republican leaders abandoned their last-minute alternate plan for a Vikings stadium and lawmakers will vote Monday on the original bill that traveled through several legislative committees.
They're also poised to vote on a $476 million bonding bill, send DFL Gov. Mark Dayton a tax bill, and then wrap up the 2012 session sometime early next week.
Hundreds of union construction workers gathered at the Capitol to urge lawmakers to remember their pledge to create jobs this session. Harry Melander, president of the Minnesota Building and Construction Trades Council, said the Legislature should pass a Vikings stadium bill and a bonding bill.
"We're here today to make sure that Minnesotans who work in the House and Minnesotans that work in the Senate do what they're supposed to, that is create jobs for Minnesota workers, those that have seen the worst unemployment in many, many decades," Melander said.
Those votes are now scheduled to take place, after Republican legislative leaders announced their plan to conclude the 2012 session. A recently hatched plan to fund a Vikings stadium with general obligation bonds has been dropped.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers said the House will vote Monday on the original stadium bill, which includes the use of charitable gambling revenue. Zellers said the stadium is the governer's priority, and it will be up to Dayton to get the needed votes.
"Stadiums, whether it be for professional baseball, hockey or football, rise and fall on the will and the ability of a governor to not only sell but deliver votes," Zellers said. "I don't know if there are the votes in the Republican caucus for the votes at this point. The Vikings have said they believe they are, as well as the governor's office, or at least the minority leaders in both bodies."
The governor responded to the Republican announcement with a news release. Dayton said he was pleased GOP leaders had agreed with his request for an up or down stadium vote, which will hold legislators accountable. DFL minority leaders in the House and Senate had similar upbeat reactions.
The House also announced plans to vote tonight on a $479 million bonding bill. The Senate also plans to take up the measure soon. The package of public works construction projects will include $70 million to begin the renovation of the State Capitol building. Dayton and other Democrats have pushed for a much larger bill. Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said the bonding bill will not include local projects.
"The centerpoint of all of this is core infrastructure projects: University of Minnesota, MnSCU, roads, bridges, asset preservation sprinkled throughout for all the state agencies. But it does not include any local civic centers," Senjem said.
The Senate also approved a tax bill passed last week by the House, but that Dayton is likely to veto. The package of tax breaks include a freeze on statewide business property taxes, an upfront exemption on business equipment purchases and increased funding for the state's Angel Investment Credit.
Dayton described the bill as fiscally irresponsible, because it taps into the state's rainy day fund to pay for the tax breaks and adds future debt. Republicans say it would easily create more jobs than a new stadium or a bonding bill. But Senate DFL Minority Leader Tom Bakk said he has the same concerns as the governor.
"You know, some of us are going to be back here next year. I don't know if I will be or not. But the one certainty is the governor is going to be back, and he has to assemble a budget for the next two years," Bakk said. "I totally understand him saying, "I'm not going to make the deficit $145 million worse.'"
Lawmakers face a tight time frame to complete their remaining work. Although the Minnesota Constitution allows them to work up until May 21, the number of available days they can meet in session, after today, has dwindled to four.
- All Things Considered, 05/03/2012, 5:20 p.m.