Gov. Mark Dayton said he met with U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger Sunday night with Lt. Gov. Tina Smith amidst the arrest of six Minnesota men charged with planning to leave the United States and fight alongside Islamic extremist groups.
Dayton said he is concerned about the recruiting efforts taking place in the Minnesota Somali community and pledged whatever assistance his administration could provide.
He said his administration would make a concerted effort to reach out to the Somali community and bring them into state government with appointments to boards and commissions while also urging the private sector to bring young Somali men into the economy.
"I think we need to do a better job, all of us, in providing a lot of good reasons for young Somali youth to see their better future here in Minnesota,” Dayton said.
A Minnesota House committee added $250,000 to a public safety bill Monday to combat terrorism recruitment.
The Minnesota Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved $893,000 in emergency state funds to respond to the avian flu outbreak, although a political squabble over a non-related provision attached to the legislation by the DFL's Senate majority may slow down distribution of the money.
The House passed the avian flu money on Thursday. It's divided into two pots: $514,000 for the state Department of Agriculture, and $379,000 for the state Board of Animal Health.
"There is some urgency," Sen. Kevin Dahle, DFL-Northfield, said Tuesday during Senate debate.
Dahle noted that the number of Minnesota turkey farms affected by the outbreak has been rising; it most recently was tallied at 28 farms in 14 counties. Minnesota is the nation's largest turkey producer.
However, a day earlier in Senate Finance Committee, DFL senators attached a provision that would move up a yearly date on which the Minnesota Management and Budget office reports the size of the state's budget reserve to legislators. Backers said it's meant to give lawmakers more time to prepare for the legislative session and the scope of resources available.
On Monday, House Speaker Kurt Daudt released a statement saying he did not want unrelated measures attached to the avian flu money. "The legislature has a tradition of not adding unrelated provisions to disaster relief and emergency response bills," Daudt said.
That makes a House-Senate conference committee on the bill likely, meaning a likely delay of several days in getting the bill to the desk of Gov. Mark Dayton for his signature. At a news conference Tuesday just ahead of the Senate action, Dayton praised lawmakers for acting quickly on the measure.
GOP senators warned in Tuesday's floor debate that the provision added by Sen. Dick Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, would slow down the progress of the avian flu money. DFL senators united to defeat a GOP amendment to remove the unrelated measure.
"This provision you're talking about has nothing to do with avian flu," said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie. Neglecting to strip it out "will delay disaster relief to the farmers of this state."
Gov. Mark Dayton dismissed the House Republicans' plan to cut taxes $2 billion, calling it a "non starter" and not worthy of negotiation.
He criticized the plan for offering small, temporary tax breaks for the middle class while extending permanent breaks to wealthy families with estates and businesses.
Dayton, looking weary as the Legislature moves toward its final weeks with both sides far apart on crucial budget bills, also criticized the Republican plan for its long term costs. He said Revenue Department analysis showed that once fully phased in, the Republican plan would cost $4 billion, turning the current $1.8 billion projected surplus into deficit.
"To put us on that ledge where the first ill wind could push us over into another decade of the experience that we just done with a couple years ago, with chronic deficits, is just unacceptale," he said.
Asked what olive branch he would give to Republicans, Dayton said he didn't want to negotiate in public.
Moments later, however, he acknowledged the long term fiscal risks of his own universal prekindergarten plan and said he would take money from his spending proposals and put it in state reserves, matching dollar-for-dollar all money Republicans take from their tax plan and put in reserve.
Gov. Mark Dayton on Saturday addressed Education Minnesota delegates at their annual convention and urged them to call on legislators and tell them to support his $343-million plan to offer universal access preschool for the state's 4-year-olds.
Dayton's speech ended the annual convention, attended by about 600 delegates who gathered to discuss state and federal education issues and vote on changes to the union's constitution, among other union activities.
The second-term governor has pledged to spend much of the state's $1.9 billion projected surplus on education. Dayton said that his signature legislative proposal -- universal access to preschool -- is one that would help close the state's glaring achievement gap.
But with four weeks left until the end of the legislative session, the plan has not gained traction with the Legislature. The GOP-led House and the DFL-led Senate did not include funding for it in the education bills they unveiled last week.
"Now is the time to make the push," Dayton told delegates. "Now is the time, these next four weeks where [the Legislature is] going to decide… and believe me, they need to hear from every one of you and every one of your members, every one of your friends and families, especially legislators in your districts. Hold them to the test."
Education Minnesota, which represents 70,000 educators throughout the state, last week launched a television ad campaign in support of Dayton's education agenda.
House Republicans' major tax legislation was released today, and, as promised, it offers up at least $2 billion in tax cuts to a range of Minnesotans, from income tax filers to Social Security recipients, military veterans to people with college debt, businesses and a plethora of other groups.
A summary of the bill can be found here.
"The overall direction is tax relief to middle-class Minnesotans. It's about helping seniors, military veterans, farmers and students," said Rep. Greg Davids, chairman of the House Taxes Committee and a Republican from Preston. Republicans will hold a news conference to discuss their plan Monday, and the House Taxes Committee will hold hearings on the Davids bill all week.
The GOP tax plan will face stiff resistance from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who has proposed spending much of the projected $1.9 billion surplus on education and especially pre-kindergarten. The DFL-controlled Senate's budget targets are similar to Dayton's.
Davids said the biggest items in the bill include a $1,000 exemption for all income tax filers. A more modest form of Dayton's proposal for a child care tax credit is also included. Families with significant estates will get a break, as will Social Security recipients, retired military veterans, teachers seeking graduate degrees, doctors who perform charity care, buyers of propane tanks, cigarettes and bullion coins and many others.
Davids said last year he was unpersuaded about the problem of student debt, but became convinced a refundable tax credit on college loans, though a major hit to the state treasury, would draw new professionals from out of state and keep young Minnesotans here.
The bill also includes all the provisions of a major bill authored by Property Taxes and Local Government Finance Chairman Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, which cuts taxes, especially for farmers and businesses that own property and Minnesotans with seasonall cabins. That legislation has come under fire from many metro legislators because it cuts $85 million from local government aid, but only to Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, which are DFL strongholds.
The Drazkowski bill will cost $363 million over the biennium, but because it phases out the commercial and industrial statewide levy over seven years, state coffers would take a ballooning hit over the longer term.
The Davids' tax legislation would also require significant offsetting cuts in government or increases in different revenue in the longer term because the cost of many of the provisions would increase over time.
Davids said his experience as House Taxes chairman in 2011, when the state faced a $6 billion deficit, made him keenly aware of the dangers of long term structural deficits. "I don't want the state to be in that situation again," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has said he will not repeat his own experience of voting for tax cuts in the 1990s, only to see the state's budget in frequent crisis during the following decade.
Update: House DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen released a statement that read, in part, "Republicans have made a choice that tax cuts for corporations and special interests are more important than educating our kids or investing in Minnesota's future."
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