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Minnesotans will see millions in tax relief and $1.17 billion in new construction projects as part of measures DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Tuesday.
The statewide construction package will create upward of 33,000 jobs in the state and the tax breaks will give an immediate financial boost to more than 1 million homeowners, renters and farmers.
The new laws are a significant accomplishment for Dayton and DFL legislators trying to retain control of the governor’s office and the state House.
“Progress,” Dayton said at a Capitol news conference, flanked by DFL House and Senate leaders. “That is what we have achieved.”
Legislators adjourned late Friday night, ending a legislative session where DFL majorities in the House and Senate raised the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, approved more than $550 million in tax breaks, poured more money into the state’s rainy-day fund and legalized medical marijuana.
Clear of the legislative session, both sides are plunging deep into the campaign season.
Republican leaders have been flying around the state with a message that one-party control at the Capitol is bad for Minnesotans. In the 2012 election, DFLers won all the top offices and majority control of both the House and Senate.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said that has brought “unhealthy taxing and spending, hurting Minnesota’s economy and hurting Minnesota families.”
DFL legislative leaders and candidates are farming out across the state to persuade Minnesotans that their leadership brought the first stable and balanced budget in years and allowed for critical investments in education and economic development.
“Minnesota is on the right track and we are building a brighter future,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
He said the past two years created a stark difference from GOP control, which resulted in billions in borrowing from public schools, vicious political showdowns and a partial government shutdown.
“Republicans might have bad short-term memory, but Minnesotans do not,” Thissen said. “We welcome that conversation.”
The session concluded without any dramatic standoffs with fellow DFLers and even ended a few days early, a point the DFL is eager to highlight.
Dayton said he does have some disappointments about the session and a couple of relatively small measures that were left unfinished.
A proposal that would have required toxic chemicals to be disclosed on products for children failed to gain support in the closing hours of the session. Another measure died that would have brought tougher campaign finance and public disclosure requirements for nonprofit groups, which drew strong opposition from anti-abortion groups and the National Rifle Association.
“It’s very telling and very troubling that a couple of interest groups could bludgeon their way to deny people to know where all this money is coming from,” Dayton said.
Lottery veto still possible
Dayton is still weighing whether to veto a ban on online lottery tickets sales, passed overwhelmingly by DFLers and Republicans who joined forces to rein in the Minnesota Lottery’s foray into online gambling and lottery sales at gas pumps.
The governor said he would make a final determination on that measure in coming days.
Republicans renewed criticism of DFLers over a new $77 million Senate office building and for last year’s tax hikes, particularly as some early indications show that Minnesota’s employment and budget picture might be dimming a bit.
The GOP needs seven more seats to gain control, setting off a fierce fight in a handful of districts over which side has the best solutions for the state.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, zeroed in on health care, calling the new MNsure system a failure.
“The one glaring omission is that we did nothing with health care,” he said.
Dayton and DFLers want to keep the debate focused on the economy and the new investments. They said Republicans complain about tax increases, but seldom talk about where the money goes, particularly when its spent on all-day kindergarten and other education measures.
“Parents wanted a better education for their children, and we delivered,” said House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. “We chose to be ambitious and we chose to solve problems. We have faith in the people of Minnesota and we have a great story to tell.”