Jim Niland, who has worked on politics from all angles, will manage the DFL Party's coordinated campaign for the 2014 elections.
Niland has been the the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 political and legislative director since 2005. AFSCME Council 5 was an early supporter of Gov. Mark Dayton's 2010 campaign and has already endorsed his re-election bid.
The public employees union has also been a l
arge spender on political campaigns. According to campaign finance records, AFSCME-related groups have spent nearly $4 million on Minnesota campaigns in the last six years.
Now, Niland, a former Minneapolis City Council member who has worked in many campaigns, will take a leave from the union to work at the party.
“The coordinated campaign will help make sure DFLers vote in 2014,” Niland said in a statement. “We have to protect the gains we won in the 2012 election by keeping the majority in the State House, reelecting Gov. Dayton and Sen. Franken and making sure Democrats up and down the ticket win their races.”
Baird Helgeson and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Minnesota's rebounding economy has brought the state a $1.08 billion surplus for the remainder of the two year budget cycle, according to a new state economic forecast.
That's good news for state leaders, who had pinned their hopes on the state steadily pulling itself out of the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression.
Gov. Mark Dayton said that he will not make any final decisions until he sees an updated forecast next year but if the state has extra money, he wants to cut new business to business taxes and give the middle class a tax break.
Some of the money is already out the door. The first $246 million must be used to complete repayment of the K-12 school property tax recognition shift. Additionally, $15 million will be transferred to the state airports fund, restoring money originally borrowed in 2008. This forecast completes repayment of all accounting shifts from prior budget solutions. That leaves a bottom line surplus of $825 million, budget officials said.
House Speaker Paul Thissen, asked about Dayton's idea of tax cuts if the surplus holds, says "we have to look at the whole totality" of the choices in front of them.Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the DFL controlled House will consider the tax cut proposals but did not immediately embrace the idea.
"What's going to be better for growing Minnesota's middle class," Thissen said.
Senate Deputy Majority Leader Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport, said "it's too early to say" whether the DFL Senate would support ending the business-to-business taxes as Dayton proposed.
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said that if Dayton follows through on the idea of tax cuts he would find a willing partner in the Senate Republicans.
Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said the forecast highlights the state’s recovery compared to the rest of the nation. On the national level, economists are seeing slower growth than expected and more uncertainty caused by continued political budget and spending showdowns.
Minnesota is “one of the leading states in the country in terms of economic performance,” Schowalter said.
Dayton says he would only follow through with his tax cut proposal if the state has a surplus in the forecast that will come out in February. Budget forecasts tend to shift significantly between those two economic predictions. (See history of those shifts here.)
Republican candidate for governor Scott Honour earned $1.7 million last year and paid about $636,000 in state and federal taxes, according to the federal tax form summary he voluntarily disclosed.
He earned far more than any other gubernatorial candidate and paid far more in taxes. Honour paid more in taxes than any of the other candidates earned, according to tax information others have released.
Honour, an investment banker, also gave far more to charity than any of his rivals. According to the federal documents, he contributed $78,876 to charity.
Honour joins DFL Gov. Mark Dayton as well as Republicans Jeff Johnson and Dave Thompson in voluntarily disclosing his earning, tax payments and charitable deductions. Republican candidate Kurt Zellers released some tax information but not what he gave to charity. Republican Marty Seifert refused to release his tax information.
In addition to his income tax payments, Honour also paid $147,083 in property taxes last year.
Honour has not said how much of his own money he will put into his campaign or if he will personally contribute.
Dayton, an heir to the Dayton's department store fortune, put more than $3 million into his 2010 campaign for governor in 2010 but has said he will not self finance next year's re-election bid.
Image: Scott Honour
Republican House Leader Kurt Daudt believes a state presentation on Minnesota's economy prepared for a legislative hearing strayed from factual to political.
"The presentation was designed to look like a re-election campaign advertisement for you," Daudt, R-Crown, said in a letter to DFL Gov. Mark Dayton Monday regarding the state Department of Employment and Economic Development's prepared testimony for a hearing last week.
Asked for a response, Dayton deputy chief of staff Bob Hume completely dismissed the accusation, calling it "ridiculous."
"The Governor would be happy to sit with Representative Daudt, or the entire GOP caucus, and enumerate the games and gimmicks that have been in past budgets," Hume said in a statement. "The bottom line is that Rep. Daudt doesn’t like the fact that the economy is improving because it doesn’t suit his political needs. We have good news to tell, and that’s what we’ve been doing."
The presentation, according to the House Republicans, included slides with titles like "games and gimmicks caused a budget roller coaster," "leveling the playing field for the middle class" and "reforming government through smart investments."
Shortly after the presentation began last week, Republicans objected to its tone.
"I'm not sure it was games and gimmicks," Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said during the hearing. "I will tell you there were people on each side of the aisle doing the best job they could to try to make the system work in good faith."
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said part of the presentation was "out of line."
House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said at the time that the committee should set aside the idea of taking credit or not for the state of the economy. To a request that the committee skip the presentation until it was stripped of partisanship, Thissen proposed they move forward with the facts.
Much of the slideshow ended up being set aside during the hearing but it still raised ire.
"The nature of the presentation makes the preparation and use of it an inappropriate use of state resources for campaign purposes," Daudt said in his letter on Monday. He said if the Dayton administration uses the presentation, House Republicans will take "any action necessary" to stop it.
In reaction to Daudt's letter, Thissen spokesman Michael Howard said the original presentation was off focus.
"The request to DEED was to deliver a presentation focused on the strengths and challenges facing Minnesota's economy in the future and their PowerPoint presentation didn't necessarily reflect that focus," Howard said in a statement. "That is why the CF moved away from the PowerPoint presentation and focused more on productive testimony."
See the presentation's slide show, as captured by the House Republicans, below and view the video of the hearing here. The DEED portion of the meeting starts about 1 hour and 12 minutes in.
This post was updated with reaction from Michael Howard, Thissen's spokesman, and Bob Hume, Dayton deputy chief of staff.
When turkeys come to visit the Minnesota Capitol, great hilarity ensues.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty got winged in 2004 and wrestled in 2005, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar got a flapping surprise in 2011 and a turkey made a break for it in 2012.
Former Govs. Jesse Ventura (with his own before and after in 1999) and Arne Carlson in 1996 with calmer birds.
What will happen this year? Follow the live blog below to discover. The turkey arrives at 10:45 this morning.