As a crowd of about 50 Republican legislative candidates prepared to officially declare their intent to run, they agreed that they would not consider raising taxes on the wealthy.
"Not at all," one said from inside the mass of candidates who appeared at the Capitol to file their candidate paperwork.
Their unity on that issue could set up another bruising legislative fight next year, should Republicans maintain the state House majority. Last year, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton pushed for a tax increase to solve the state's budget deficit and Republicans resisted. Their standoff brought the state to a historic weeks-long government shutdown and bitter recriminations.
Dayton has said that next year he will stress the need for the rich to pay more, in the face of an $1.1 billion expected deficit and a $2.4 billion debt to schools, and the would-be House Republican members said they will refuse him again.
"There are still savings out there, but if we have to, we've shown that we are able to go in and reduce budgets," said House Speaker Kurt Zellers. "We will balance the budget without a tax increase."
Zellers, unbidden, repeatedly mentioned the unionization of child care as something a House majority would work against next year. Late last year, Dayton signed an executive order to have at-home child care workers, who care for kids that receive state subsidies, vote on whether they wanted to unionize. A group of workers, joined by conservative groups, sued and a Ramsey County district judge agreed that Dayton had overstepped his authority with his order.
"It has come up more than the [Vikings] stadium," Zellers claimed. Despite the massive push for the stadium at the end of the legislative session, when hordes of Minnesotans were calling and e-mailing their lawmakers about the issue, he said that now that it is done, it doesn't come up much.
Zellers did not equally mention the marriage or photo ID constitutional amendments that will appear on the ballot this fall, other social issues or the "Right to Work" constitutional amendment. Instead, he hit on economic themes of jobs, taxes and regulation.
Although several longtime lawmakers, from both sides of the aisle, have quit the Legislature decrying the partisanship at the Capitol, the Republicans running for office said they would work to cut down partisan bickering.
"Everybody has to work together. ... We've had long, long histories of getting a lot of stuff, a lot of good stuff done," said Mark Uglem, who wants to represent Champlin in the Minnesota House. "We realize that Minnesotans need results and that's what we're working for."
Uglem said he wanted to work with DFLers on state spending and then repeated what has long been the Republican mantra, "Minnesota really doesn't have a revenue problem; we got a spending problem."
Rachel E. Stassen-Berger • 651-925-5046