Gov. Mark Dayton talked about the legislative session with reporters today as Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, looked on. Photo: Tim Nelson
From MPR’s Tim Nelson:
Gov. Mark Dayton says the just-concluded legislative session was a landmark.
This morning he touted results including statewide all-day kindergarten and financial support for Rochester to help with the Mayo Clinic’s Destination Medical Center plan.
“When people asked me last fall what would happen when we had a DFL legislature and a DFL governor, I said one word: progress,” Dayton said. “And that’s what we’ve brought about in the last five months.”
Dayton and DFL leaders said legislation passed this year will also give Minnesotans property tax relief, a fairer income tax system with higher taxes on top-tier earners, a two-year tuition freeze for University of Minnesota and MNSCU students and tax incentives to create private sector jobs.
Republicans decried the results, much of which happened without any GOP support.
“We started with a $627 million budget problem and Democrats solved it by raising sales, income and business taxes that everyone will pay,” said Senate minority leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, ahead of a statewide barnstorming tour.
“Unfortunately, everyone will pay more because of the Democrats’ overreaching.”
Republicans were particularly critical of the Legislature’s passage of a bill authorizing day care workers and personal care assistants to vote to join a union. Republicans called it “political payback” to unions looking to expand their reach in the state’s workforce.
Legislative leaders said they didn’t overplay their political hand, but corrected a long-standing imbalance, marked by chronic budget crises for the state.
“I think this is a Legislative session where we really turned the corner,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen. “We did finally get past the partisan gridlock and balance our budget without gimmicks in a fair and lasting way. And that is going to be a lasting legacy.”
Dayton was also critical of Republicans for not agreeing to a proposed $800 million state borrowing bill. Lawmakers could only agree to a pared-down version that funds Capitol restoration work, improvements to the Minneapolis Veterans home and flood protection in northwest Minnesota.
Dayton said the state should have done more.
“The Republicans wouldn’t pass a bonding bill that had all these economic development projects, the Mayos of these small towns; Fosston and St. Cloud, Mankato. Not so small. But those were the equivalent projects. And they just turned them all down,” he said. “They don’t believe there’s any role for government in positive economic development, and they’re wrong.”
The state’s Independence Party was also critical of the results of the legislative session.
“The 2014-2015 budget still does not address that the debt that this state incurred to our schools in 2012-2013. Republicans and Democrats are both complicit in it. They both passed imbalanced budgets,” said party chair Mark Jenkins.
He called on state leaders to pay back the so-called school shift by Dec. 1, or the party would file a lawsuit to ask the court to balance the state budget.
The Dayton administration isn’t worried about the potential suit.
“The budget is absolutely balanced, it’s absolutely constitutional,” said state budget director Jim Schowalter. “Simple timing of payments has been found under the purview of the Legislature and the governor for years.”