First-term Republican lawmakers push back on Dayton

Eight members of the Minnesota Senate said they’re not happy that Gov. Dayton has called them “extremists.” The group of lawmakers held a news conference today to react to comments Dayton made this week. They include GOP Sen. Michelle Benson (who was carrying her newborn), GOP Sen. Ben Kruse (who was clad in a baseball hat and jeans), GOP Sen. Roger Chamberlain (who rides his bike to work, has a truck that needs tires and tills his own garden) and Pam Wolf (a teacher). The group worked to highlight that they’re mainstream Minnesotans who are aiming to improve Minnesota.

Governor Dayton blamed the current budget impasse on “extreme right-wing caucus members” who don’t know how government works. Republican Senator Al DeKruif of Madison Lake says he and the other Republican members of the Legislature are not extreme.

“What we are trying to do is not be extremists in any way but actually common sense folks that come from the real world to help our government be what it should be, be everything it can be and should be. Live within our means and provide the services that we need to be providing.”

Dayton and the GOP controlled Legislature are at odds over the best way to pass a two year state budget. Minnesota is facing a special session and possible government shutdown on July 1 because the two sides are at odds over taxes and spending.

Dayton is proposing to increase income taxes on Minnesota’s top earners to erase a $5 billion projected budget deficit. Republicans say they won’t budge off of a $34 billion budget. None of the first-term lawmakers said they would support more revenue to break the impasse.

This year’s crop of Republican newcomers has considerable influence in both the House and Senate. They make up more than half of the Republican Majority in the Senate and nearly half in the House. That means freshman lawmakers will have a big say about whether GOP legislative leaders can cut a budget deal with Dayton in time to avoid a government shutdown on July 1.