Tussle over staff pay erupts in MN Senate

Senate Republicans are criticizing their DFL counterparts for cutting staff salaries and jobs in the Senate Republican Caucus.

The Senate Rules Committee approved the staff roster for the 2013 legislative session this morning. It includes salary reductions of up to 40 percent for some Republican staffers – a cut GOP Senate Minority David Hann said is unreasonable.

“What happened today was extremely mean spirited and disingenuous,” Hann said.

Complaints over staff layoffs and salary reductions are common whenever power in the Legislature shifts from one party to another. Democrats won both the House and Senate in November and have been replacing committee administrators and other staff with their own employees. But Republicans complained the cuts are unfairly falling on the GOP and would create a bad working relationship between Democrats and Republicans.

“This is poisoning the well,” Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, said.

DFL Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says the Senate was forced to make cuts because the Senate budget will start running a deficit at the end of June. Bakk said some of the salary reductions are a result of paying some staffers too much two years ago.

Bakk also said former GOP staffer Michael Brodkorb’s lawsuit against the Senate is playing a role in the current budget. Brodkorb is suing the Senate for wrongful dismissal. He was fired after it was revealed that he was having an affair with then-Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.

“There’s a gorilla in the room,” Bakk said on the Senate floor. “And it’s the lawsuit against this state Senate that was brought on by behavior of members of your caucus and employees that your caucus hired.”

Bakk said the Senate has authorized nearly $200,000 in legal fees to defend itself in the suit.

The Rules Committee approved the staffing measure on a party line vote. Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, complained that Bakk should not have voted on the measure because his wife works for the Senate and is slated to earn $68,561. Bakk said his wife worked for the Senate before he became a member.

  • Joe Danko

    The shoe is on the other foot but the foot that was formerly shod is in mouth.

  • Jim

    Ah..the same MN GOP party who endorsed Tom Emmer. Remember how ol’ Tom wanted to cut the minimum wage for waiters and waitresses to $2.00. The party of Amy Koch and her rather sordid affair, partially funded by Minn taxpayers no doubt as they took business “trips” together. I am sure the GOP thought they would be running the show in Minn for decades, well guess what…

  • Colin

    Am I the only one having deja vu from two years ago? Back then, all of the cuts were on the DFL side.

    It seems that if you’re GOP, you make the bed you lay in. Sometimes, that bed has an extramarital affair in it and tons of bitterness to spread around.

  • Lynette

    They should do the same cuts for both parties.

  • Pat

    Political disputes between politicians shouldn’t be taken out on professional staff that do the bulk of the work in the legislature. If we want qualified people that believe in public service we should have set salaries.