Minnesotans paid more than $1.4 billion in state taxes in May, about $17 million less than state budget officials predicted.
Individual income tax collections were $15 million, or 2.3 percent, less than protected. Sales taxes nearly hit their target, coming in at $372 million, just $1 million below estimates. Other form of revenue beat targets by $22 million, offsetting much of the decline in other areas.
The state has taken in $16.8 billion for the fiscal year, about $95 million below the forecast.
Minnesota budget officials urge caution in interpreting revenue numbers, which can fluctuate wildly from month to month.
Gov. Mark Dayton signed an agreement Friday that will sharply limit his ability to personally bankroll his re-election campaign.
Dayton agreed not to spend more than $20,000 of his own money in exchange for about $447,000 in public subsidy. The agreement also limits Dayton’s campaign to about $3.6 million.
That's a sharp contrast to 2010, when Dayton poured $3.7 million of his own money into the campaign and narrowly beat GOP rival Tom Emmer.
Now an incumbent with a list of accomplishments, the governor said the agreement will allow him to spend less time raising money and more time traveling the state meeting with Minnesotans.
The agreement has no bearing on what outside groups can spend defending Dayton or attacking his rivals.
Dayton, a department store heir, has already embarked on an active fundraising schedule, taking in more than $1.1 million.
Dayton and his running mate, Tina Smith, came to the Secretary of State’s office Friday to file the paperwork to make their campaign official.
The governor said the theme of his first campaign was to make Minnesota better.
“I think we’ve indisputably made Minnesota a better state,” said Dayton, noting new education investments, a balanced budget and progressive legislation, such as legalization of same-sex marriage. “That’s why I am running, not only to make Minnesota better, but to make it the best.”
Dayton and Smith will travel to Duluth this weekend to accept the DFL’s endorsement for governor and lieutenant governor.
Ample signs are already emerging that Dayton will have a heated and divisive race.
A GOP group that has criticized Dayton and Democrats for months parked a rented truck in front of the Secretary of State’s office displaying a huge banner criticizing the governor for the troubled rollout of MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange.
The group, Minnesota Jobs Coalition, plans to park the truck outside the DFL State Convention in Duluth.
Gov. Mark Dayton plans to sit down Thursday night and weigh the fate of a measure that would end the Minnesota State Lottery’s online scratch-off lottery ticket sales.
The governor has anguished over this piece of legislation more than any other this session. The lottery director that Dayton appointed fought hard to block the ban, but legislators overwhelmingly passed the measure with a veto-proof majority in the closing days of the session.
“I am really torn,” Dayton said recently. “I realize that if I were to veto it and they were still in session, they would override my veto.”
Many legislators argued that online sales could increase gambling addiction, but Dayton is concerned that the bill became far more sweeping and would end lottery ticket sales at gas pumps and ATMs. The measure also blocks the lottery from every expanding into casino-style games, like keno or blackjack, a provision supported by the tribal gambling industry.
“I am concerned that real impetus behind this bill was not to protect the citizens of Minnesota, but to protect the interests that now benefit from the status quo,” Dayton said. “That is the wrong reason for the legislation to be supported and passed.”
The lottery became online sales of scratch-off lottery tickets earlier this year to reach younger Minnesotans who have not embraced the traditional store-bought tickets. Lottery director Ed Van Petten said that the online sales are more of a marketing strategy to get people to buy traditional lottery tickets.
Many convenience store retailers that rely on lottery ticket sales attract customers were not persuaded by Van Petten's argument.
The scratch-off lottery ticket sales make up only a tiny fraction of the lottery’s annual sales.
Dayton has until Friday to decide whether to veto the measure, which would be his first of the legislative session.
Minnesota campers, anglers and taxpayers will see improved services under a massive government streamlining effort passed by legislators and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton.
Dayton celebrated the achievements Tuesday, calling passage of nearly 1,200 measures to eliminate antiquated laws and improve government services “a phenomenal success.”
“Things don’t get undone in government very readily,” the DFL governor said. “I think we are off to a very good start.”
Dayton's signature streamlining initiative was to be a centerpiece of the last legislative session, but he saw it slip from legislators’ priority list due to a surprisingly large budget surplus and other attention-grabbing issues, like medical marijuana.
The governor’s team leading the initiative kept at it while other political battles flared overhead, unveiling more than 1,000 proposals and doggedly shepherding them through the committee process. With a database tracking each measure, Dayton’s team ditched some that became controversial and took on others pitched by legislators as the session wore on.
“The one thing that can unite us all, that we shouild agree upon, is that government should run better,” said Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board Commissioner Tony Sertich, who led Dayton’s initiative. “That has a hallmark of the Dayton administration and a hallmark of this initiative.”
Republicans criticized the effort for focusing on sometimes silly and otherwise common-sense reforms rather than giving a serious rethinking of the state’s troubled health insurance exchange and the new $77 million office building for state Senators and staff.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, criticized Democrats for not stopping the new office building. “Minnesotans are unimpressed,” he said.
Dayton said the changes will make it less time-consuming and aggravating for Minnesotans and business owners when they need to deal with state government.
The governor even signed an executive order that requires state agencies to do something seemingly so simple, but which has proven so hard – requiring communication with the public to be clear, concise and easy to understand.
As part of the effort, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources converted 92-pages of fishing regulations into a slick and easy to use computer application that works on mobile phones.
Legislators wiped out myriad antiquated laws that generated a chuckle around the Capitol. They eliminated telegraph regulations, repealed a law that made it a misdemeanor to carry fruit in the wrong sized container and eliminated a nearly 80-year-old law that made it illegal to drive in neutral.
But many of the changes were serious and substantive.
Dayton is seeking to shorten waiting times for business permit applications to 90 days, a dramatic drop from the current 150 days.
The administration is expecting that 11,000 of the 15,000 annual permits applications quickly reach this new standard.
The effort will make it easier for some Minnesotans to file taxes, eliminating an often confusing multi-step process to deduct student loan interest.
UPDATED TO CLARIFY CRAVAACK SUPPORT
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour is tapping into his personal fortune to competes in the wide open GOP field for the state’s highest-elected office.
Pat Shortridge, a senior adviser for Honour, confirmed that the candidate renewed his commitment to his campaign with an additional loan of $250,000. Shortridge said the new infusion is part of a major fundraising push for the next phase of the campaign.
That comes on top of $50,000 that Honour loaned his campaign in the first quarter of this year.
Honour had the best fundraising quarter of any of the GOP rivals, netting more than $200,000 through March, even outraising DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.
Honour is not abiding by the GOP endorsement at the end of the month, so he is pressing on to the August primary.
On Wednesday, former Minnesota U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack renewed his support of Honour. Cravaack endorsed Honour previously.
"He is a business leader, and will take on the tough problems facing our state rather than doing what is politically convenient just to get re-elected," said Cravaack, a Republican who represented Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. "Scott hasn't spent his career in politics, and electing him will send a message to career politicians that it's the end of business as usual, that it is time for new leaders and a new direction for our state."
Honour and Cravaack have spent the week traveling together, stopping in Virginia, Duluth, Hinkley and elsewhere.
"I am grateful and honored to have the support of Chip Cravaack," Honour said. "With his help I'll continue building a strong coalition of leaders and supporters that will be successful in defeating Mark Dayton in November."
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