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, Baird Helgeson, Patricia Lopez, Jim Ragsdale, Abby Simons, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger and Glen Stubbe. Contributors in D.C.: Allison Sherry, Corey Mitchell and Jim Spencer.

Posts about State budgets

Dayton signs $1.7 billion in new construction, millions in tax breaks

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: May 20, 2014 - 12:43 PM

Minnesotans will see millions in tax relief and $1.17 billion in new construction projects as part of measures DFL Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law Tuesday.

The measures are a significant accomplishment for Dayton and DFL legislators who now head into the campaign season in an attempt to hold control at the Capitol.

“Progress,” Dayton said at a Capitol news conference, flanked by House and Senate DFL leaders said. “That is what we have achieved.”

Dayton said he had some regrets about the session and a couple measures left unfinished.

A new measure requiring toxic chemicals to be disclosed on products for children died in the closing hours of session, as did tougher campaign finance and public disclosure requirements for nonprofit groups, which drew strong opposition from anti-abortion groups and the National Rifle Association.

“It’s very telling and very troubling that a couple of interest groups could bludgeon their way to deny people to know where all this money is coming from,” Dayton said.

Dayton said he is still weighing whether to veto a ban on online lottery tickets sales, which emerged as a hotly debated issue in the closing days of the legislative session. He said he would make a final determination on that measure in coming days.

Legislators adjourned late Friday night, ending a legislative session where Democratic majorities in the House and Senate raised the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, approved more than $550 million in tax breaks, poured more money into the state’s rainy-day fund and legalized medical marijuana.

Republican legislators are flying around the state to persuade Minnesotans against one-party control at the Capitol. With Dayton and the House up for election this fall, Republicans are scrambling to win back the governor’s office or control of the House.

Democrats brought “unhealthy taxing and spending, hurting Minnesota’s economy and hurting Minnesota families,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

Republicans need just seven more seats to gain control, and Daudt expects they will win back nearly 20 additional seats on Election Day.

The GOP urged Minnesotans to embrace their “balanced Republican approach.”

Republicans criticized Democrats for a new $77 million office building and for last year's tax hikes, particularly as some early indications show that Minnesota’s employment and budget picture might be dimming a bit.

“Democrats have really let Minnesotans down,” said Senate Majority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

  

Republicans bring 'balanced' message to Minnesotans

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: May 19, 2014 - 10:00 AM

Legislative Republicans were blitzing the state Monday to make the case that one-party Democratic control at the Capitol is bad for Minnesota.

Democrats brought “unhealthy taxing and spending, hurting Minnesota’s economy and hurting Minnesota families,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown.

GOP leaders converged at the Capitol for an early-morning news conference before taking off for Moorhead, Austin and Luverne, areas where Republicans believe they can best make their case and help win back the House.

Legislators adjourned late Friday night, capping a three-month legislative session where Democratic majorities in the House and Senate raised the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, approved more than $550 million in tax breaks, threw more money into the state’s rainy-day fund and legalized medical marijuana.

“This Legislature did what we said we were going to do,” said House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis. “We balanced the budget responsibly in order to focus on priorities important to most Minnesotans: investing in education from kindergarten to college, investing in proven job creation initiatives, and reducing property taxes for homeowners, renters and farmers.”

The Senate is not up for election this November, so Republicans and conservative donors are placing enormous emphasis on winning control of the House. Ousting Democrats from power would give Republicans a solid platform to block DFL initiatives and pass their own measures.

Republicans need just seven more seats to gain control, and Daudt predicted they could win back nearly 20 additional seats on Election Day.

The GOP urged Minnesotans to embrace their “balanced Republican approach.” They did not highlight some of the more polarizing issues at the Capitol this year, such as the anti-bullying measure and a minimum wage increase that had strong opposition from business leaders.

Instead, they talked about the need for tougher education standards and more commitment to transportation spending, particularly in rural areas.

Republicans criticized Democrats for a new $77 million office building and for last year's tax hikes, particularly as some early indications show that Minnesota’s employment and budget picture might be dimming a bit.

“Democrats have really let Minnesotans down,” said Senate Majority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie.

Republicans continued to hammer on the state’s bungled roll out of MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange.

“The one glaring omission is that we did nothing with health care,” Hann said.

He called the new system a “failure.”

Hann said he plans to meet with health care officials over the summer to see what changes could be feasible.  

Democrats are trying to keep the debate more focused on the economy. They warned that Republican control brought years of back-to-back budget deficits that drained budget reserves, resulting in billions being borrowed from public schools to patch up the state budget.

DLFers said their budget balancing repaid public schools, left the state with its highest ever budget reserves in state history and ushered in a $1.2 billion budget surplus.

"The best way to build on our progress is to continue growing our economy from the middle-out,” House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul. "That means fighting for working families and our local communities instead of engaging in partisan gridlock that only benefits the wealthy special interests."
 

Senate Minority Leader Hann: 'We spent too much'

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: May 16, 2014 - 10:58 PM

Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, said legislative leaders spent too much money this session.

He said there were some good accomplishments on tax relief and new construction projects, but he called for more focus on education and healthcare.

“We spent a lot of money, and I think we spent too much,” Hann said after senators adjourned.

Over two years, he said, legislators added roughly $6 billion in new spending, about $2,900 for every household in the state.

“Spending money isn’t always evidence that we’ve accomplished anything,” Hann said.

High school graduation rates are low, standardized test scores are flat and the achievement gap is still huge, he said.

“Spending money and having good intentions is not enough," Hann said. "There are too many kids in this state who are left behind. Spending money hasn’t helped them.”

“We have to do some things differently; we have to do some things better,” Hann said.

Hann

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Legislature finishes off $1 billion in state building projects, sends to Dayton

Posted by: Patrick Condon Updated: May 16, 2014 - 12:11 PM

(Updated)

The Legislature finished up one of its remaining major tasks on Friday morning when the Senate passed a $1.17 billion package of state-backed construction projects and sent it to Gov. Mark Dayton. 

The largest project in the package is $126 million in state bonds to finish the ongoing renovation of the State Capitol.

The measure also includes $240 million in building and renovation projects on state college and university campuses. The Tate Laboratory of Physics at the University of Minnesota gets $56.7 million of that pot. 

Also a part of the bonding bill is $113 million for roads, bridges and transportation projects; $100 million to beef up affordable housing options around the state; $61 million for civic center projects in Rochester, St. Cloud and Mankato; $56 million to renovate the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter; $22 million to continue work on the Lewis and Clark water pipeline project in southwestern Minnesota; $21 million to renovate Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis; $14 million for an expansion and renovation of the Children's Museum in St. Paul; $12 million for projects at the Minnesota Zoo; and a range of other projects. 

Money for the projects came in two chunks: $86 million in state borrowing, and an additional $200 million in cash. The Senate approved the bonding portion by a vote of 47-17 and the cash portion by a vote of 44-19, both with bipartisan support. 

Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said it would be easy for lawmakers to nitpick the bill's final mix of projects. But he praised the measure for spreading projects around the state. Senjem singled out the inclusion of money for the civic center projects, all of which had long been pursued by lawmakers from those three cities. 

"Finally, at least, civic centers in three major regional centers across Minnesota will be completed," Senjem said. 

Gov. Mark Dayton has been a strong advocate of a hefty construction bill, although he declined to sign off on a deal with legislative leaders who wanted assurances that the governor would not use his veto pen to trim specific projects from the list. 

Minn. House passes $1.17 billion in statewide construction projects

Posted by: Baird Helgeson Updated: May 16, 2014 - 3:21 AM

The Minnesota State Capitol, Minnesotans needing affordable housing and higher education institutions will see some of the most profound transformations as part of a $1.17 billion package of state-backed construction projects.

The Minnesota House overwhelmingly passed the measure early Friday morning and it now goes to the Senate for final approval.

The measure includes $126 million to finish the State Capitol renovation – the single-largest item in the package.

“Bonding bills have many good things in them, and many things that are less good,” said state Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City. He said that for him, the Capitol renovation outweighs the things he finds less desirable.

Legislators set aside $240 million for new and renovated buildings at the state’s higher education institutions, including money for the Tate Laboratory of Physics at the University of Minnesota and a clinical sciences facility at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

The agreement includes $100 million for affordable housing, the largest housing investment in state history. Community leaders from around Minnesota have pleaded with state officials for more housing, saying the limited supply is holding back growth in their regions.

Legislators want $56 million to renovate the Minnesota Security Hospital, a psychiatric facility in St. Peter. They also want nearly $30 million for the Department of Corrections, including a perimeter fence at the correctional center in Shakopee, coming less than a year after an inmate escaped from the facility.

Democrats included $22 million for the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System, a multistate project to pipe water from South Dakota to a handful of southwestern Minnesota communities with unreliable water supplies.

Lawmakers have also agreed to allow local communities to borrow money to pay for the remainder of the $69 million project. The state will increase aid to local communities to pay a large share of the local debt load.

The state is paying for convention center expansions in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud, projects that have been passed over for years.

The measure includes money to redevelop Nicollet Mall, expand the Minnesota Children’s Museum in St. Paul and renovate Duluth’s historic NorShor Theatre.

Minnesota Zoo will get $12 million from the state, including $5 million for Heart of the Zoo II and the rest in asset preservation and new exhibits.

The House overwhelmingly passed the $846 million borrowing portion by a vote of 92-40. An additional $200 million in cash passed a short time later, 82-50.

Legislative leaders who negotiated the construction package asked Gov. Mark Dayton to sign a letter pledging not to veto any of the projects.

He replied with a last-minute list of his own requirements, including passage of a government reform measure, a provision that requires disclosure of toxic chemicals in children’s products and a handful of other provisions.

Negotiations continued early Friday morning and Dayton had yet to sign the letter.

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