State House panel moves to roll back Dayton raises

Rep. Roz Peterson presented her bill on commissioner salaries to the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. Tim Pugmire / MPR News

Legislation to roll back DFL Gov. Mark Dayton’s recent pay raises for commissioners is on its way to a vote in the Minnesota House after a single committee hearing.

Members of the House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee advanced the measure today on an 11-4 vote. Two Democrats – Reps. Laurie Halverson of Eagan and Yvonne Selcer of Minnetonka — joined Republicans on the prevailing side.

The bill would shift the authority for such raises from the governor to the Legislature, reversing a move made in 2013.

Rep. Roz Peterson, R-Lakeville, also successfully amended her bill to rescind the raises Dayton gave last month to 27 top officials. Peterson said there was a public outcry over those big raises.

“I think that people are OK  with incremental salary increases. But when they are $35,000, $25,000, there’s a lot of people that that’s their entire salary for the year,” Peterson said. “These are already highly compensated employees that are appointed by the governor.”

Some Democrats defended the pay raises as overdue and necessary to keep top talent in government.

Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL- Brooklyn Park, described the bill as an inappropriate attempt to micromanage the executive branch.

“Are we next going to be looking at every salary, of the guy that drives the snow plow in the Blaine area, and whether he’s getting paid too much or not enough?” Nelson asked. “We’re heading down a dangerous path here.”

The full House could vote this week on a separate measure that also takes aim at the salary issue. Action is pending on an emergency funding bill that would trim the salaries of the three commissioners whose departments are seeking the stopgap allocation. But House GOP leaders are considering whether to instead vote on the Senate version of the bill, which would delay the salary increases to all commissioners until July.