Dayton, Koch say they'll refuse pay

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 19, 2011 - 7:26 AM

DFL governor and GOP Senate majority leader say they won't accept salaries if the state budget stalemate leads to a government shutdown.

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State Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, talked to the media about their latest budget proposal Thursday afternoon.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune

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Hours after DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said Saturday that he would accept no salary during a looming government shutdown, Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch said she would do the same.

Neither leader asked others to follow suit although the pressure likely will be on for other legislators and government officials to at least symbolically trim their financial sails as 36,000 state workers get pink slips and lose jobs on July 1.

Indeed, Greg Crowe, a House controller, said that as of Friday more than half a dozen House members had inquired about refusing pay during a shutdown.

"I think it would be terribly wrong for those of us responsible for it [the shutdown], the Republican legislators and myself, to receive our salaries while thousands of dedicated state employees have lost theirs," Dayton said in a statement that seemed to challenge Republican leaders to do the same.

Each side blames the other for the impasse, which faces a June 30 deadline. If a budget deal is not in place by then, the state will start shutting down on July 1.

Koch, R-Buffalo, said she would not collect her legislative salary or legislative per diem payments "in the event Governor Mark Dayton" forces a government shutdown.

The two sides are at odds over the size of the budget and Dayton's goal to raise personal income taxes on top-earning Minnesotans. The state faces a projected $5 billion budget deficit over the next two years.

Dayton believes Republican budget proposals cut too deeply into state spending while Republicans have stood firm with their no-new-taxes pledge.

"The decision to force a state government shutdown is the responsibility of Governor Dayton and as a candidate Governor Dayton said he would not shut down state government to raise taxes," Koch said in a statement released Saturday afternoon.

Koch was speaking only for herself on the subjects of salary and per diem, said Michael Brodkorb, communications director for the Senate Republican Caucus. Brodkorb noted that the Republican-controlled Senate lowered its per diem at the start of the legislative session from $86 to $76.

Dayton spokeswoman Katharine Tinucci said the governor is leaving it up to other members of his administration to determine what they will do with their paychecks in the event of a shutdown.

"I do not know what they will decide," Tinnuci said.

In his statement, Dayton said "I remain committed to doing everything possible to avoid" a government shutdown.

Koch said, "I remain committed to the position that a state government shutdown is not necessary and will continue to work tirelessly to prevent it."

Multiple messages left for the leadership of the House Republican Caucus to comment on the governor's statement were not returned.

The Senate has enough funds under its control to pay members and staff for about half of July, Brodkorb said.

The House has enough to keep salaries current until Sept. 1.

The next payday in both bodies is July 1.

Staff writer Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report. David Phelps • 612-673-7269

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