A group of 15 House Republicans is calling on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton to use his line-item veto power to nix money for Twin Cities parks.
The DFL-controlled Legislature approved the millions for outdoor, cultural and arts Legacy fund projects, including $6.3 million for Twin Cities area parks.
Republicans contend the parks money was not among the recommendations from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which advises how a portion of the money is spent.
“We request you line-item veto the provision that dedicates money to the Metro Area parks,” legislators wrote.
Dayton’s staff said the governor is reviewing the measure newly passed by the Legislature and will decide the fate of the money soon.
The White House will honor state Rep. Karen Clark on Wednesday as one of 10 recipients of the "Harvey Milk Champions for Change" award for gay elected and appointed officials.
A White House release credited Clark with being the longest serving openly gay state legislator in the country. A Democratic Farmer Labor Party member who has represented south Minneapolis since 1980, Clark co-wrote the Minnesota Freedom to Marry Act, which legalized same-sex marriage in the state. Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill into law just last week.
Wednesday's ceremony will coincide with Harvey Milk's birthday. In 1977, the San Francisco resident became the first openly gay person elected to public office. He was assassinated the following year.
By Jim Ragsdale and Jennifer Brooks
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL leaders of the Legislature pronounced one-party governance a success and said the budget deal approved late Monday night will have tangible results for middle-class Minnesotans.
"I don't know how they stayed up, much less functioned," Dayton said of House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, during the late-night windup to the Legislative session that ended on Monday.
Dayton said the decision to increase the income taxes on upper-income Minnesotans, along with other taxes such as a cigarette tax hike, allows the state to wipe out a $627 million projected deficit, to invest $753 million in education from pre-school to college, to provide $400 million in property tax relief and $40 million in economic development.
Dayton said the budget deal will show that government has a role in improving the lives of Minnesotans."We believe in a positive role for government," he said.
GOP leaders were flying around the state to give their take on the session -- which is that there was no need for a tax increase at all this year because of the improving economy. Back at the Capitol, Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, told reporters that 2013 would be remembered as the session of "tax, tax, tax."
Democrats pledged to tax the rich, Thompson said, but instead "they taxed everybody."
"What we now have is that Minnesota will be one of the highest-taxed states in the nation," Thompson said. "When what we ought to be doing is try to create a healthy economy, opportunity culture, rather than a culture of governmental overreach."
Other House and Senate Republicans criss-crossed the state Tuesday to share their post-session reactions. House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, Senate Minority Leader David Han, Reps. Jennifer Loon and Tim Sanders, and Sen. Michelle Benson hopscotched around the state, hitting Rochester, Mankato, St. Cloud, Moorhead and Duluth in the space in the space of a day.
Bakk said he is proud that the new budget contains "no gimmicks" and will leave the next Legislature -- after House and gubernatorial elections in 2014 -- with a balance budget to start with. That hasn't often been the case in the last decade.
"We have re-set the clock in Minnesota," he said, and put the state on a "stable budget path."
Thissen said the agreement "turned the corner on Minnesota's future" by a "history-making" expenditure on early-childhood education scholarships. "It's going to change thousands of kids' lives," Thissen said. Funding for all-day kindergarten -- free to parents -- and freezing tuition at colleges universities are also tangible benefits of the budget, Thissen said.
"Tuition is just another tax," Thissen said, quoting Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, who heads the House Higher Education panel.
None of the leaders mentioned the historic bill to legalize gay marriage, the last-day passage of a bill to allow child-care and home-care workers to vote on unionization, or the failure to enact universal background checks on guns.
Their message was bread-and-butter budget, and Dayton's argument that one-party government spelled "progress" that middle-class Minnesotans will see.
To the complaint that one-party government "overreached," Thissen said, "For the last decade, the state has under-performed."
Dayton said if it hadn't been for the DFL majority, such projects as the Mayo-Rochester expansion would have fallen by the wayside. GOP failure to approve a larger bonding bill meant failure for "the Mayos of all these small towns," projects that could have helped communities around the state, Dayton said.
He said Republicans "don't believe there's any role for government" in such projects. "And they're wrong." He added: "They just turn their back on everybody."
Bakk and Thissen said they regretted not being able to agree on an increase in the state's minimum wage. Bakk said there are some "clinkers" in the tax bill that may be reconsidered, including a sales tax on warehouse services or farm equipment repair.
Bakk said he is proud of two changes that have been long considered.
One eliminates the sales tax on purchases paid to the state by local governments. The other is to give businesses an up-front sales tax exemption for capital equipment purchase, rather than requiring them to borrow the money for the purchase and file for a refund.
He said both problems have been lamented since he arrived at the Legislature in 1994, and now they have been fixed.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, a GOP candidate for Dayton's job in 2014, issued a statement saying the DFL leaders had the wrong focus -- "an obsession with divisive social issues, unionization of in-home childcare providers and a smorgasbord of new ways to raise taxes and fees on Minnesota taxpayers."
By Jennifer Brooks, Jim Ragsdale and Baird Helgeson
Exhausted Minnesota legislators poured out of the Capitol early Tuesday, with starkly different views on the successes and failures of the completed legislative session.
Democrats said the session is a bold step in a new direction that will restore fiscal order to the state budget and break the cycle of back-to-back deficits.
They also praised their job-creation efforts, like helping Mayo Clinic expand and the State Capitol renovation.
“I think it’s a great budget for Minnesota,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “We’re doing what we told Minnesota voters that we would do last November and I’m really pleased with that.”
It may have been a session where the Legislature made history by legalizing gay marriage, but Thissen insisted that it was the DFL’s education policies that people would remember.
“We kind of turned the corner from some of the ideological debates to being a Legislature and a governor that can work together to move the state forward,” Thissen said.
Republicans said the $2.1 billion in tax increases will be a drag on the economy.
“First of all, we don’t need any more money, and this has been a session of over-taxing, over-spending and over-reaching by the one-party government of the DFL.” said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. “We’ve seen a lot of spending, that has simply been status quo, putting more money into existing programs, paying off political allies, very very little reform.”
“We came to a fork in the road where we could grow Minnesota’s economy without raising taxes and make Minnesota more competitive and Democrats took the wrong fork,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.
Daudt predicted that Democrats would lose points with voters even for the policies they didn’t pass, like the proposed tax hike on beer that eventually failed.
“Those things will probably come back to haunt them,” he said.
Other Democrats said voters will remember a different message.
“I remember right after the election, some people asked Gov. Dayton what will an all-Democratic government mean for Minnesotans,” said Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook. “And he used one word in his answer. He said ‘Progress,’ and I think that we put a budget together that I’m very proud of.”
Bakk was particularly proud of two accomplishments in the tax bill – eliminating the sales tax paid by local governments to the state, and fully removing sales tax from capital equipment purchases. He also was proud of using the new tax revenue to provide free all-day kindergarten statewide.
“To people who think we’ve overreached, I guess the voters are going to determine that in 2014, but I think we’ve got an awful strong message to sell about Minnesota being a better place for our kids and grandkids as a result of the work of this 88th Legislature,” Bakk said.
But some Democrats remained frustrated at things left unfinished.
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley said leaders in his own party ditched a proposed minimum wage increase to accomplish other priorities.
“Senator Bakk agreed with the Senate Republicans not to pass a minimum wage bill and not to pass the bullying bill, in order for them to agree to support a bonding bill to restore the State Capitol building,” said Winkler, who heard the same story of the deal from House Republicans. “We’ll certainly come back in 2014, and maybe the Capitol restoration will be so nice that minimum wage workers can scrape together a few pennies and come see it someday.”
Thissen said he expects the minimum wage hike to be a top initiative next year.
“I think that would help a lot of Minnesotans all across the state,” he said.
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