DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk endured criticism and praise during an hourlong talk at the Minnesota State Fair on Thursday.
Fairgoers who walked by the DFL booth criticized the legislative leaders for a new sales tax on agriculture equipment repairs and their inability to boost the state’s minimum wage, which has fallen more than $1 below the federal base wage of $7.25 an hour.
“All I see are taxes coming at us,” said David Werner, a farmer from Montevideo. “How can we say the DFL is representing us when they are slapping taxes on the ag related programs they never taxed before?”
Thissen said that lawmakers took a sizable step to lowering property taxes for farmers in the last legislative session, though he said not enough was done in that area in the last budget.
Massive cuts in state aid to cities and counties during the eight years GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty was in office caused local property tax collections to double, Bakk said, to about $8 billion.
“I am pretty proud of the fact that we bent the curve on taxes,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook.
Republicans have criticized Democrats for raising more than $2 billion in new taxes, which they say will become a drag on the state’s economy and threaten the business climate. Most of the new taxes come on the state’s top earners and some businesses.
Some attendees thanked Bakk and Thissen for balancing the budget and their commitment to improving the state’s education system.
“This was a strong year for Minnesotans,” said Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.