With an insider’s eye, Hot Dish tracks the tastiest bits of Minnesota’s political scene and keep you up-to-date on those elected to serve you.

Contributors in Minnesota: Patrick Condon, J. Patrick Coolican, Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez, Abby Simons, and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Jim Spencer and intern Beena Raghavendran.

Posts about Democrats

Jennifer Granholm to headline DFL event

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: March 31, 2015 - 10:37 AM

Former Mich. Gov. Jennifer Granholm will be the featured speaker at the DFL's Humphrey-Mondale Dinner June 6 at the Hilton in Minneapolis, the party announced today. 

Granholm was elected attorney general in 1998 and then Michigan's first woman governor in 2002, serving two terms. Michigan struggled through the collapse of the auto industry and job loss during her tenure, and the city of Detroit sank into eventual bankruptcy. Unemployment began to decline rapidly, however, near the end of her second term as the auto bailout took effect.   

Here she is at 2012 Democratic National Convention: 

Sen. Franken to return to Dave Letterman in show's final weeks

Posted by: Allison Sherry Updated: March 27, 2015 - 3:00 PM

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Al Franken has worked hard to eschew his comedic roots to prove to Minnesotans he is a serious senator.

After handily winning a re-election effort last year, the second-term Democrat is dipping his toe back in.

Franken is scheduled to appear on the Late Show With David Letterman Wednesday for the first time since 2008 -- before he was elected to a first term.

Before then, Franken was a regular on Letterman, first appearing in 1982 with his then-writing partner Tom Davis. He was a guest some 20 times in the 1980s and 1990s, when he was a writer for Saturday Night Live, staffers said Friday.

Apparently, there is no planned agenda, the two old friends will just likely riff.

Letterman's last show for CBS is scheduled for May 20.

Senate DFL budget just shy of $43 billion, sets aside $250M for rainy day fund

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez Updated: March 27, 2015 - 11:01 AM

Senate DFL leaders on Friday unveiled a broad budget outline that called for spending $42.7 billion in the upcoming biennium, about $250 million less than what Gov. Mark Dayton in his budget.

It follows the House Republican budget targets, released Tuesday, which called for a a budget of $40 billion, though it left out a chunk of spending. Republicans did not include in their total budget the more than $600 million in general fund dollars they would divert to road and bridge repairs in the next two years. Once that is factored in, as well as a $2-billion unspecified tax cut plan, the gap between the Dayton, DFL and GOP plans closes substantially.

The DFL proposal, characterized by Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk as a "middle ground between the House Republican budget targets and Gov. Dayton's budget recommendations," would set aside $250 million to grow the state's budget reserve, or rainy day fund.

Bakk was vague Friday about what the DFL budget proposal will look like, but said details will become clearer in coming weeks as budget negotiations get underway. 

The plan calls for $1.14 billion in new spending, about $730 million less than the projected $1.87 billion budget surplus. Of that, nearly half will be dedicated to education.

DFLer's tax proposal calls for $200 million in tax cuts, which is likely to include property tax cuts, said Senate Taxes Chair Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

In a statement, Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, criticized the DFL budget targets. 

“The state budget should reflect Minnesotans’ values, but Senate Democrats clearly refuse to do the hard work Republicans are doing to eliminate wasteful spending," Hann said. "The Republican budget, on the other hand, is designed to increase family budgets and grow the state’s economy."

This is a developing story. Check back later for an update.

Talk of sports subsidies swirls at Capitol

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: March 25, 2015 - 2:50 PM

Even as Gov. Mark Dayton and top state lawmakers vow no state money to help build a new Minneapolis stadium for the Major League Soccer franchise announced Wednesday, leaders of the House and Senate are preparing to mount a push to approve Super Bowl-related tax breaks requested by the NFL. 

Minneapolis is hosting the 2018 Super Bowl. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Wednesday that last year, he and the other three top legislative leaders signed a letter to the NFL promising their best effort to secure Super Bowl-related tax breaks that several previous host cities extended. 

The letter was requested by leaders of Minnesota's Super Bowl host committee and was included in their ultimately successful bid package to the NFL, Bakk said. House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Minority Leader David Hann confirmed this account. 

"We had an agreement we would help them try to figure out how to do this," Daudt said. 

Bakk said he met a month ago with Ecolab CEO Doug Baker, a leader of the host committee. Baker told him the NFL was requesting $2.8 million in tax breaks over Super Bowl weekend, specifically in exemptions to taxes on hotel occupancy, sales taxes on NFL events and the state income taxes that team players, coaches and owners competing in the big game would normally be subject to. 

"We didn't absolutely commit, but I do feel the four of us felt like now that we've got it, it wouldn't be fair not to follow through," Bakk said. He said recent Super Bowl hosts Indianapolis and New Orleans extended similar tax breaks. 

Bakk said he and Daudt agree to try to find room for the provision in this year's catch-all tax bill. Daudt said even though the cost to the state is relatively small, he expects the issue to be controversial. 

"If we can find a way to make that work and a way to pay for it, I'm happy to look at it," Daudt said. "Obviously it's going to require some discussion." 

Dayton said Wednesday he is not in on discussions between Bakk, Daudt and the host group, though he previously had made public appearances with members of the group to tout Minnesota's bid.

"I believe that having to pay the income taxes of millionaire players and multimillionaire owners is excessive," Dayton said, openly questioning whether the provision could find sufficient support in the Legislature. Dayton said he likely wouldn't veto such a provision, but also said he would not promote it. 

Details of the Super Bowl tax breaks emerged even as an official announcement came down Wednesday from Major League Soccer that it awarded a Minnesota franchise to an ownership group led by another Minnesota business titan, former UnitedHealth CEO Bill McGuire. That bid has been linked to the ongoing construction of the new football stadium, since that facility has been designed to potentiall accomodate professional soccer. 

Despite that, McGuire's group is mulling a new stadium on the other side of downtown. Under the state's stadium agreement with the Vikings, team owners Zygi and Mark Wilf would have exclusive ownership rights to any soccer team that played in the Vikings stadium for the first five years. 

Bakk, Daudt and Dayton have all said they do not support state subsidies for a separate soccer stadium. That has led to suggestions of pressure from the Vikings, but Bakk said that's not the case. 

"We're building a stadium that can be used for soccer. We're not going to build a second one," Bakk said, adding he thinks that would be hugely unpopular with voters.

Bakk noted that the Vikings won't own the new stadium, and suggested McGuire's group could play in a temporary spot for five years before relocating to the Vikings stadium. 

House to vote on bill to create minimum wage exception for tipped workers

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez Updated: March 23, 2015 - 2:44 PM

The House on Monday will debate and vote on legislation that would create a minimum-wage exception for tipped employees, a measure expected to draw hours of debate among legislators. 

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Pat Garofalo of Farmington, the bill is an effort to revise the minimum-wage law passed last year by a DFL-controlled Legislature.

Garofalo and other supporters of the legislation said it would relieve pressure on restaurants who are seeing their labor costs grow after the Legislature raised the state's wage floor last year. 

The first of three phased-in pay hikes went into effect last summer, raising the state’s wage floor to $8 an hour. It will rise to $9.50 an hour by 2016. Beginning in 2018, the minimum wage will be indexed to inflation.

Crafted and supported by the Minnesota Restaurant Association, Garofalo’s bill would cap the minimum wage for tipped employees at $8 an hour. The proposed pay change would apply only if those workers earned a total of at least $12 an hour in a two-week pay period, after factoring in tips. If they don’t, they would earn the prevailing state minimum wage. 

Restaurant workers and labor unions oppose the bill, saying it would effectively freeze wages while the cost of living continues to rise.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said last month that Garofalo’s bill is unlikely to find much support in the DFL-led Senate. Gov. Mark Dayton opposes creating an exemption for tipped employees, a spokesman said.

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