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Paid $31,000 a year, lawmakers have gone 14 years without a salary increase, although they receive stipends and mileage reimbursements that can nearly double that amount. The Senate proposal would raise legislative pay to $42,000.
Democrats who support the measure say taking the issue out of the hands of legislators would quell some of the outrage. They say the current salary basically ensures that candidates are either retired or wealthy, which is not a fair cross-section of Minnesotans.
Republicans had a different idea. “Politicians, if you want a pay raise, go get a job like the rest of Minnesotans,” said state Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.
Tuition freeze passes
The House also gave final passage to a $2.8 billion higher education bill that will boost funding by $250 million and freeze tuition for two years at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and the University of Minnesota.
DFLers also set aside $100,000 to help pay for the “DREAM act,” designed to help undocumented students who are on a path to becoming permanent residents.
“I feel great,” said Sen. Terri Bonoff, a Minnetonka DFLer who chairs the Senate Higher Education Committee. The bill also contains measures to ensure the U will bring down what it spends on administration, which has been the subject of national scrutiny lately.
The higher education measure now goes to Dayton for his signature.
Midnight deadline nears
Legislative Democrats continue to keep a close eye on the clock.
House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, told Republicans she welcomed vigorous debate. But she also told members she would use any procedural tools at her disposal to clip loose debate in the next three days.
There is still a chance that Democratic leaders could work with a small coalition of Republican lawmakers to pass a state-backed construction proposal this year. If House Democrats can resurrect a plan, it still would need to pass the Senate, where the same partisan tangles remain. Democrats insist there is still time, even with the heavy lift on the budget ahead.
Republicans, who have prepared 100 amendments to Saturday’s unionization bill, say DFLers’ decision to leave crucial budget bills to the last may force a special session.
Said Murphy: “We are on track. We are going to get it done.”
Staff writers Jennifer Brooks and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger contributed to this report.
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