Dead men tell no tales. They also collect no pay.
That's a problem for the Minnesota House DFL Caucus' federal campaign arm. Since at least 2003, the federal group has carried $56,025.62 in debt to the Benjamin Group of Madison, Wisconsin, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Rep. Steve Simon, the treasurer of the federal campaign finance group and a DFL House member from Hopkins, says the caucus would be happy to pay it off.
"The company is no more. The owner is no more," Simon said. "Yet the FEC won’t let us take it off the books."
The Benjamin Group is long out of business, Simon says, and, "Mr. Benjamin died." There is no successor group to which the DFL can pay the $56,000, he said.
The solution, derived from legal advice and the FEC? The DFL just has to report the debt cycle after cycle forever and ever.
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.
Adoption got more expensive for some Minnesota families this year.
Workers who received money from their employers to help offset adoption expenses will now face a state tax bill for that help. Adoptive parents used to be able to write off up to $12,970 in employer assistance. Congress made those tax breaks permanent. Minnesota did not.
It was one of dozens of federal tax breaks that no longer exist in Minnesota, after the Legislature opted against bringing the state tax code into full compliance with Washington. The result are a series of small gaps between state and federal tax returns that could hit everyone from homeowners going through foreclosures to workers who got college tuition assistance from their employers.
Signing off on every single one of Congress's recent tax breaks and extensions would have cost Minnesota $300 million over the next two years. But Gov. Mark Dayton and many lawmakers say there may be enough money in the budget to restore some of the tax breaks.
Restoring the adoption tax break would cost the state an estimated $400,000 in 2014. Allowing workers tax-free employer tuition assistance would cost $4.4 million. Exempting homeowners who go through foreclosures or mortgage debt forgiveness from additional taxes would cost $7.2 million.
Saturday is National Adoption Day and state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is pledging to introduce legislation next session to eliminate the state adoption tax. There are plenty of items in the state budget that could be trimmed to pay for the tax breaks, Garofalo said: "a very easy way would be to get rid of the $90 million Senate office building."
"Everybody's pro-adoption. Why would you make it more expensive?" Garofalo said. "If we can find hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new Vikings stadium, we can find hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix the adoption tax credit problem."
Gov. Mark Dayton has also said he's "very willing" to look at closing some of the gaps in the tax code, particularly for homeowners who could be hit with a sizable tax bill after going through a foreclosure or short sale.
The Minnesota Legislature returns to work in late February 2014, after many taxpayers begin filing their taxes.
Add another name to the list of legislative retirements.
State Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, announced he would not run again on Wednesday.
See our list of retirements below -- it has
two three names so far but is sure to grow before the 2014 House elections are in full swing.
Fair housing advocates and convicted felons alike urged lawmakers Tuesday to reform the state’s expungement laws, which they say provide a clean slate in name only.
The two dozen witnesses ranged from a 30-year-old Spicer mother who can’t complete her studies as a nurse because of her juvenile record, to a counselor who said he found work only because his record was sealed. In each instance, the theme was the same: Despite their best efforts to move forward, offenders can’t get past the blemish on their records.
In a decision last May, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that judges could seal only the court records of offenders who sought expungement, but executive branch agency records, such as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension or Department of Human Services. As a result, those records still show up in background checks, preventing applicants from finding work or housing.
Legislators are taking a closer look at the and Rep. John Lesch, D-St. Paul, has drafted a bill that grants judges the power to seal all records related to an expungement. The bill, which he has called a “conversation starter” is the first of many proposed solutions that will be discussed next month.
Renee Zschokke, an employment counselor for ex-offenders, said her clients struggle to find work and housing, as ordered by their probation officers. Once a background check reveals their record, she said, they typically are rejected.
“This is where the rollercoaster ride begins. A motivated client can quickly fall into a state of hopelessness,” said Zschokke, also an advocate for Take Action Minnesota, a coalition of groups geared toward social justice. “A glimmer of hope is expungements.”
Rep. Debra Hilstrom, D-Brooklyn Center, who co- chairs the group of legislators reviewing the issue, believes new law will arise from the discussions.
“I’m confident that we’re going to get something done this session.” She said.