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.
In the final hours of the legislative session, the Minnesota House and Senate passed a scaled-down bonding bill.
With just hours to go before the midnight end of the session deadline, the House began debate on a bill that will fund $176 million worth of projects around the state. Those projects include repairs to the aging State Capitol, flood mitigation efforts and the next stage of a major expansion for the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis.
"We will get thouands and thousands of construction workers off the bench" with this bill, said Rep. John Ward, DFL-Baxter.
The bill passed the House by a vote of 121-10 Monday evening. Minutes later, the Senate took the bill up without debate and passed it 57-6.
An $800 million bonding bill failed in the House last week. The Senate proposed a much smaller version, with only enough money to repair the Capitol and build a new parking structure. The House refused to concur with the Senate's proposal, but after a tense daylong standoff, it rolled out a bill of its own.
The new bill includes $109 million for the Capitol renovation, $22 million for the new parking garage, $20 million for flood mitigation, $19 million for the Minnesota Veterans Home in Minneapolis, which needs state backing for the next stage of a major renovaiton and expansion of its facility.
Capitol administrators had warned that if repair funding fell through this year, the project would have been set back two years, at a cost of millions more to the state.
"Our beautiful Capitol can finally get the long-term commitment it deserves," said Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City. "For years, its needs were shoved aside by politics, misplaced priorities and tight budgets. Tonight we rise above all that to do something right for the People's House. This building has no lobbyist to shill for it. It has us, and we must not let it down."
Over the weekend, heavy rains flooded one of the tunnels under the Capitol, highlighting the 108-year-old building's deteriorating condition.
"This Capitol is a 108-year-old building that's an iconic building for the state of Minnesota, but it is at its tipping point," Ward said. "Unfortunately, we saw some of that this week."
But for every project that made it into the final bonding bill, dozens more were cut, to the dismay of some lawmakers.
"What concerns me is what's not in this bill," said Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul.
His district was counting on the bonding bill to save a magnet school in his district. Crosswinds School, an arts and science school for children in grades 6-10, was hoping for bonding authorization to turn governance of the school over to the Perpich Center for the Arts.
"Unless we act, that state asset, which was built to educate kids of the East Metro Area in an integrated setting, is going to get mothballed," Mariani said.
Ward said the House had to disappoint a lot of communities to put together a bill that could pass on short notice.
"There's a lot of things in this bill that people are missing, from every corner of this state," Ward said. "From wastewater to ther veterans to roads and bridges to higher ed....When it gets down to the end of the session and you're still trying to do something good for the citizens of Minnesota, you do lose some stuff."
"While my heart aches for that facility," he added. "This is what we could come up with."
With the legislative session in its final hours, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Monday night he will not end the session until they pass a measure to pay for a State Capitol restoration.
“It appears the House was willing to go home without the Capitol, but that’s just not acceptable to me,” said Bakk, DFL-Cook. “I was not going to go home without the Capitol being done.”
House Republicans were able to defeat a $800 million borrowing package that included the Capitol renovation and a raft of other projects.
House Democrats have been trying to cobble together a stripped-down measure with only the Capitol and a few other projects that the GOP could embrace.
In a procedural quirk, state borrowing measures must originate in the House. Overnight, the Senate took the unusual step of passing a state borrowing proposal to pay $132 million for the state Capitol restoration.
The House rejected the measure, starting a frantic round of backroom meetings between legislative leaders to broker a deal.
Bakk said he won’t pass another budget measure until a Capitol restoration proposal is complete.
That will set in motion a frantic final few hours to finish the session by the mandatory midnight adjournment.
“This building has got to get taken care of,” Bakk said, standing in the nearly-empty Senate chambers.
The 2013 Minnesota legislative session is likely to come to a tidy but surprising end.
In the wee hours on Monday, the Minnesota Senate unanimously passed a $132 million borrowing bill for Capitol restoration and a capitol area parking facility. The Minnesota House has not adopted such a measure. Democratic and Republican leaders said they only learned about the borrowing plan as it was arising on the Senate floor.
The Senate also followed the House in passing a constitutional amendment that would take decisions on legislative pay out of lawmakers' hands and give them to a bipartisan appointed panel instead. Unlike in the House, the Senate measure had Republican as well as Democratic support Monday morning.
Voters will decide whether to adopt that measure in 2016.
Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate reached deals to allow debate and passage of the final major measures left for the year -- which include funding for many state agencies -- by Monday at midnight, lawmakers’ deadline for getting their work done.
For the House, that work includes a final vote on a contentious measure to allow unionization of child care and home care workers.
While the unionization debate has taken hours and was slated for many more hours of Republican objections, House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said they would be able to conclude it quickly on Monday.
While Daudt and his members strongly oppose that measure, they will let up on the debate that had kept members at the Capitol through the night and into the next day Friday and Saturday.
"I think that we will probably work together throughout the day to make sure that we are treating each other well and respectfully and we are able to get the business done on time," said Daudt.
"We're working together," Thissen said, after he ended a floor session Monday at 3 a.m. The House will meet in session again on Monday at 11 a.m.
But the Senate and House were not working together so smoothly.
"We worked just on schedule over here. They worked on bonding," said Daudt.
He and Thissen both said they had no agreement to pass the $132 million bonding bill the Senate approved. Without House concurrence, that measure will not become law.
Bakk said the Senate vote on the measure proves, "there's strong support to keep these renovations in the Capitol going." The Minnesota Capitol is already covered in scaffolding and plans for renovation are well underway but lack money to continue without more state funding.
"It is up to (the House) now if they want to keep the renovations in the Capitol going or let it come to a halt," he said.
"This is just a thing that happened over here in the Senate," said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.
Like in the House, the Senate leaders agreed that they will not allow debate to drag on past their Monday midnight deadline.
"Senator Hann and I have an agreement that we will have a timely conclusion to this session," Bakk said. Monday during the day, the Senate is expected to approve the budget plan for state agencies as well as a $2 billion tax measure.
Part of that timely conclusion means that the Senate will not deal with an anti-bullying bill that had drawn attention and opposition.
"The Republicans promised a ten-hour filibuster," said bill sponsor Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis. "Ten hours which we don’t have, obviously."
"We were in the middle of a debate on bullying that our members, and many people in the state, frankly, don't think is needed and we don't like and we wanted to keep debating that," Hann said. “And we're getting down to the end of session.”
That measure would have expanded the state's law on bullying and, backers said, offered students more protection than currently exists.
"I'm very angry right now," Dibble said, as it was clear the measure would not become law this year. "It means (students) will have to endure another year of not feeling safe and supported in their own schools."
By Baird Helgeson
The Minnesota House approved $2.1 billion in new taxes on Sunday night, the most sweeping package of new revenue in more than a decade.
House Democrats voted 69-65 to increase income taxes on high earners and impose a dramatic increase on the tobacco tax. The measure also set aside money to pay the state’s share of the new Minnesota Viking stadium and help a multibillion-dollar expansion in Rochester to aid Mayo Clinic.
The additional revenue is a crucial component of DFLers' plan to boost education funding, provide property tax relief and spur economic development. The new proposal also wipes out a $627 million projected deficit.
“We’re proffering massive property tax relief for all Minnesotans, both for cities, counties and school districts, individuals and renters,” said House Taxes Committee Chairwoman Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington.
Republicans said the tax hikes are an economy killer, and set the state government growth at a rate much higher than in the private sector.
“If somebody says this isn't a job-killing tax bill, then they don't know anything about businesses,” said Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore.
Legislators ditched much-criticized proposals to begin charging sales tax on clothing and a separate plan to impose a temporary income tax surcharge on those with a taxable income of more than $500,000 a year. That money was slated to go to speed the repayment of $850 million owned to K-12 public schools. They also scrapped a proposed alcohol tax, which drew intense opposition from the state’s beer and wine industry.
In the closing days, lawmakers reverted to the framework of a plan first offered by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
The measure will make the rate the high earners the fifth-highest in the nation, a huge concern for Republicans.
The new budget is a huge political victory for Dayton, who campaigned on a pledge to “tax the rich” and was not able to get the proposal by Republicans who controlled the Legislature two years ago. Dayton finally got his opening when DFLers took over control of the Legislature this year.
The plan creates a new, top income tax tier for married couples who have a taxable income of more than $250,000 a year. Under the plan, the top 2 percent of wage earners will now pay 9.85 percent in state income tax on every dollar over $250,000.
That is a 2 percentage point jump from the current top rate and will put Minnesota’s income tax rate among the top five in the country. Only California, New York, Hawaii and Oregon are higher.
DFLers also ratcheted up the tobacco tax by $1.60-per-pack, more than double the current rate. Democrats were persuaded that the hike will encourage people to quit smoking and prevent children from starting, but it will also create a new windfall to pay for other spending priorities.
Part of the new tobacco revenue will also go to help repay the state’s share of the new Minnesota Vikings stadium. The state’s initial solution of using new revenue from electronic pull-tabs and bingo has fallen profoundly below projections.
Along with the tobacco tax money, the state is using some corporate tax revenue to make up any shortfall left by the electronic gambling revenue. The state needs about $30 million a year to pay its share of the new, nearly $1 billion stadium to be built on the site of the Metrodome.
“This is something we told the taxpayers we would not do, why are we doing it?” asked state Rep. Bob Barrett, R-Lindstrom.
“Minnesotans want to move on and see it built and leave no doubts that all the Vikings needs are met,” Lenczewsi said.
The proposal includes millions in tax breaks for cities and counties, buyers of aircraft parts and the state’s largest craft brewers.
“When you’re voting for this tax increase, you’re not solving the Vikings problem, you’re not paying back the [school] shift, you’re not helping health or human services or the schools that you promised you were going to do,” Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood. “It doesn’t give me any pleasure to say that, but I have to say that because that’s the truth.”
Lenczewski defended the bill, noting that most of the new taxes will fall on the wealthy or on businesses “to whom much has been given” by the state in the past. The exception, she said, was the new tobacco tax.
“I view [the tobacco tax] as a public health imperative,” she said. “That tax does not begin to recoup the cost to all of us for the use of that substance.”
The measure now goes to the Senate for final passage. Dayton helped craft the final tax deal and supports the proposal.
Staff writer Jennifer Brooks contributed to this report.