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 Minnesota legislature

GOP senator proposes 'toddler tax credit' for Minnesotans with young children

Posted by: Ricardo Lopez Updated: February 25, 2015 - 4:52 PM

Expanding on a recent proposal by DFL. Gov. Mark Dayton, a Republican senator wants to offer a $1,000 non-refundable tax credit for families with young children to help offset the cost of child care. 

The so-called Toddler Tax Credit, sponsored by Sen. Karin Housley, R-St. Mary's Point, would provide an estimated $500 million tax relief for families with children under the age of 5.

“The costs that go along with raising young children put a lot of financial strains on our families,” Housley said in a statement. “Any type of tax relief we can give these families will be a welcome break.” 

Housley's proposal would have no income limits, unlike Dayton's proposal which would cap it $124,000 for households that claim the child-care tax credit. 

The two proposals are aimed at addressing high child-care costs in Minnesota, where the cost of child care compared to median income makes the state the third-least-affordable in the country.

Child care costs most acutely affect single-parent households, according to a 2013 report by Child Care Aware, an industry group that compiles state-by-state data.

The average cost for child care annually was $13,876 for a single-parent household, eating up more than half of the parent’s annual median income, according to survey and census data. For married, two-parent households, the cost of child care annually ate up just more than 15 percent of their median income. 

Bakk says he, Dayton mend fences in first conversation since public blowup

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: February 25, 2015 - 6:13 PM

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said he and Gov. Mark Dayton cleared the air in a private conversation Wednesday morning, settling once and for all on the legislative path out of the commissioner pay raise dispute that fractured their relationship, and also agreeing they have too many shared priorities as DFLers this session to let their feud fester.

Dayton hosted Bakk and other top DFL lawmakers at a breakfast meeting Wednesday at his official residence. "The way it kind of ended was he and I in the corner talking, and he actually put his hand on my shoulder and I put mine on his," said Bakk, DFL-Cook.

"The governor and I just have way too much work to do to be at odds with each other this session. I think we're fine," Bakk said. He said they agreed to jointly appear at a March 5 news conference to tout DFL transportation priorities this session.

Dayton's Deputy Chief of Staff, Linden Zakula, called it "a congenial and constructive meeting."

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, also present at the meeting, said the tone between Bakk and Dayton was cordial and that the larger group discussion remained focused on issues.

The public falling out two weeks ago between the Capitol's two most powerful DFLers came after Dayton revealed that he had raised salaries for about 30 state commissioners to the tune of nearly $900,000 a year, with a handful getting an additional $35,000 a year in salary. Republicans and some DFLers bristled at the size of the raises, despite the 2013 Legislature having granted the governor the power to raise them without further legislative oversight.

Under the deal to resolve it, struck largely between Dayton and Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt, the raises will be temporarily put on hold. Come July 1, Dayton could reinstate them to the full amount; but after that, the Legislature would regain the final authority on whether further raises are granted.

That's a major surrender for Dayton, who initially defended the raises as necessary to recruit and retain top talent for his cabinet. But the issue because a political distraction for the governor, who more recently has spoken repeatedly of the need to retrain the focus of the session on issues of more wide-ranging impact to Minnesotans.

The raise issue got attached to an unrelated stopgap spending bill that distributes about $16 million to several state agencies that encountered unanticipated costs in recent months. A House-Senate conference committee was set to meet Wednesday afternoon to finish up that legislation, and Bakk and Daudt both said they expected their respective chambers to take a final vote on the matter on Thursday.

Do the raises kick in July 1? Who knows?

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: February 24, 2015 - 12:37 PM

The confusion over whether raises for Gov. Mark Dayton's cabinet will kick in automatically July 1 continues. 

It's been the subject of considerable back-and-forth since a deal was crafted last week by legislative leaders and Dayton about the controversial raises, some of them as much as about $35,000, for the governor's commissioners. 

The deal, which is wending its way through the legislative process, would entail the Legislature taking back authority to set commissioner pay July 2, delaying the raises until (at least) July 1 and trimming a few agency budgets for the raises paid out so far this year. 

The question is whether the raises kick in automatically July 1 (the day before the Legislature gets authority back over commissioner pay) or whether Dayton would have to affirmatively grant the raises. 

Either way, July 1 will offer Dayton a choice, but a more difficult one if he has to choose affirmatively to give the raises, if indeed that's what he wants to do. If, instead, they kick in automatically on July 1, he would simply do nothing. 

House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he believes Dayton would have to make the affirmative choice to give the raises, and that House Republicans would try to persuade the governor not to do so. 

Last week, Minnesota Management and Budget said that the raises kick in automatically. 

Today, a spokesman for MMB said it's now uncertain: "We are looking at the current language and will make a determination on what it means -- if it is passed into law. It's not completely clear." 

The deal on pay raises is attached to a stopgap spending bill that passed the House last week and will have a conference committee hearing today at the earliest. 

House passes first measure to reform child protection laws

Posted by: Abby Simons Updated: February 23, 2015 - 5:06 PM

The Minnesota House of Representatives on Monday passed what they called the first of many efforts to reform the state’s child protection system.

The House voted 130-0 to pass the legislation sponsored by Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls. The two-pronged measure first places child health and safety over keeping the family intact when social workers make decisions on how to intervene. It also reverses a law n passed last year that barred social workers from taking previously screened-out reports into consideration during investigations of suspected abuse.

Kresha was part of a bipartisan task force of lawmakers who unveiled an 11-point plan in January to reform the child protection system. The legislation stems from preliminary recommendations by the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children, launched after Star Tribune reports on the death of 4-year-old Eric Dean, who was beaten to death by his stepmother despite 15 reports to Pope County child protection.

“I will admit there is a lot of work to do and we have a good group of bipartisan legislators working to get that bill done, but first I ask that you answer the knock at the door,” Kresha said.

Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, asked Kresha why the bill wasn’t more thorough given earlier proposed legislation. Kresha said it was trimmed in part to accommodate Senate legislation, and to await further task force recommendations expected to be released March 31.

Task Force member Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, said the task force held more hearings than any other topic he’s seen in 19 years in the Legislature, and that the consensus is unanimous that the recommendations are a solid start.

“This is just the tiny first step,” Mullery told his fellow House members. “It’s an awful long ways to go, and this is an important first step.”

Kresha, citing statistics, told the floor that in 2013, 25, 597 childern were affected by allegations submitted to Minnesota child protection authorities. Of those, 2,756 were of children that haven’t reached their first birthday. There were 9,754 reports for children under age 5. Seventeen children died, while another 36 suffered life-threatening injuries.

Daudt says pay raise deal still on

Posted by: J. Patrick Coolican Updated: February 23, 2015 - 4:44 PM

Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said in remarks after a House floor session that he has every reason to believe a deal is still in place on the volatile issue of pay raises for Gov. Mark Dayton's cabinet. 

A sliver of doubt entered the situation after a Senate floor session today, when Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said he was waiting to talk to Dayton about the deal, which was crafted last week, though he said he wasn't againt the deal either. 

The deal would delay raises for Dayton's cabinet until July 1 and restore legislative oversight of commissioner pay. 

The raises, some of them as much as $35,000, have consumed the Capitol for several weeks. 

The issue has been attached to a stopgap spending bill that will provide three state agencies about $15 million to pay for last year's Ebola crisis response, more staffing at the troubled Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter and a weather-related budget shortfall at the Minnesota Zoo, among other items. 

The House and Senate have appointed conference committee members to iron out differences in the legislation coming out of the two bodies. 

Daudt also said in his remarks that the pay issue may come up again during the session, but that he didn't intend to drag Dayton through the mud on the issue at every opportunity. 



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