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.
WASHINGTON -- Republican Stewart Mills III, who is running to unseat Rep. Rick Nolan in the 8th Congressional District, launched his first ads this week in a substantive buy on television in Duluth and the Twin Cities against Obamacare.
"Every day I see how Obamacare is hurting small businesses and the middle class," Mills says, after saying he grew up in the family company stocking shelves and mopping floors. "As your congressman I'll replace it."
The campaign declined to give specifics but a Democratic source says the campaign sunk $170,000 in the buy on cable and network television in Duluth and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It is scheduled to run through July.
In last campaign finance reports, Mills reportedly had $350,000 cash on hand. His portion of his family's farm business is worth between $41 million and $150 million.
“It’s clear why millionaire Stewart Mills is avoiding the issues and hiding behind his TV ads, because when the cameras aren’t rolling he says what he actually thinks,” said Brandon Lorenz of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
This is the latest ad in the putative fight this fall between Republicans and DFLers over Obamacare. Last week, Mike Obermueller, who is running against GOP incumbent Rep. John Kline, launched a pro-Obamacare ad in a tiny ad buy on MSNBC.
WASHINGTON -- Mike Obermueller's latest ad is certainly not the Democratic cookie cutter approach to winning an election this fall.
Taking pot shots at his GOP incumbent opponent Rep. John Kline in the 2nd Congressional District, Obermueller is actually running on the Affordable Care Act.
In a goofy one-minute ad that shows a bunch of men and women dancing around an office, Obermueller says his opponent's repeated criticism, including his multiple defunding votes, of the new health care law is "music" to the ears of insurance executives.
"If Congress repeals Obamacare, insurance companies will go back to charging whatever they want, charging women more for health coverage, denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and even dropping coverage when you get sick," a man's voice intones, while supposed insurance executives party down between file cabinets and conference tables. "If John Kline got his way, 11 million Americans would lose their coverage."
The ad will have limited viewers because it's a very small buy on cable only. A Republican source said the one-minute ad will run three times on MSNBC, costing the campaign $400.
Obermueller said Friday he would like to raise more money to keep the ad up for as long as possible and buy some time on network television. None of Minnesota's network stations, KMSP, KSTP, WCCO or KARE report any Obermueller buys, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
"Republicans have had the microphone for too long alone on this issue," Obermueller said. "We need to work to improve and fix this law ... not repeal it."
Obermueller's unique approach embracing Obamacare could prove risky in a state where it still isn't polling well. In a Suffolk University Political Research Center poll out April 29, 45 percent of Minnesotans called the law "generally bad" for the state and 41 percent said the Affordable Care Act is "generally good."
Kline's spokesman said Friday that Obermueller was desperate to revive a failed campaign. Obermueller lost to Kline two years ago by 8 points.
"Mr. Obermueller is grasping at straws to do anything he can to resuscitate his failed campaign based on a track record of supporting billion-dollar tax increases on working families and voting to specifically tax our veterans and our seniors," said Troy Young, in a statement.
Television and radio ads already airing to influence Minnesota voters in races for U.S. House, U.S. Senate and the governor's race and are unlikely to let up until Election Day.
Although the ads are coming late -- during the competitive U.S. Senate race in 2008 the air war was already months old by this point -- their appearance presages a barrage through November.
With potentially heated races for governor and U.S. Senate as Republicans work to wrest both offices from Democrats who won their first races by narrow margins, candidates and their allies will battle across the state's airwaves. National interests see the 8th Congressional District, which has flopped between Democratic and Republican control in recent years, as ripe for a turn over and therefore overdue for more ads.
In the governor's race, Republican Marty Seifert plans to launch his first ad this week, his campaign said on Wednesday. It is the first TV spot in the race that will determine whether DFL Gov. Mark Dayton keeps his job. Andy Post, Seifert's campaign manager, said the ad will run during the Minnesota Wild's Friday night game.
Seifert is in a pitched battle to woo Republicans at the party's endorsing convention this month and the GOP will likely also have a crowded primary in August. Businessman Scott Honour, another contender for Republican votes, has also been running radio ads.
Dayton, who has amassed larger campaign coffers than any of the Republicans running against him, has not yet started television ads. He is focused on the legislative session and unlike in his first election, does not face a primary. His campaign manager Katharine Tinucci said he has the resources to run ads when the time comes but, "that time is not now."
Minnesota viewers may see and hear more ads in the other statewide contest -- the race for the U.S. Senate.
In that race, the most significant candidate media spending has come from Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken. This week started a six figure television ad campaign. He has raised more than all but a few sitting senators so likely has the resources to keep it up.
Republican Senate candidate Mike McFadden started running cable ads a few weeks ago and Republican rival Julianne Ortman began radio ads late last month.
That's only a taste. When Franken first ran, he and then-Sen. Norm Coleman, spent millions on dozens of television ads blasting Minnesotans right until their recount began.
Outside groups are also gearing up. A conservative group launched an anti-Franken ad way back in March.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce included Republican U.S. House candidate Stewart Mills in its $3 million television ad campaign to jump-start Republican campaigns "and unite the business community around their efforts,” Scott Reed, the chamber’s senior political strategist, told the New York Times.
The Minnesota House appears unlikely to approve a measure to bring now secret political spending into the sunshine this year, House Speaker Paul Thissen said on Tuesday.
"I think it would be very difficult to pass that bill this year because of opposition from certain interest groups," said Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis.
The measure, which had the strong backing of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, would require groups that spend money on Minnesota politics to reveal their spending and donors, no matter what type of group they are.
Such undisclosed spending has grown in the state but, because much of it comes from political nonprofits and the ads avoid certain words that trigger disclosure, it currently need not be reported to the state's campaign finance agency. The measure is one of several designed to reveal more information about the influence over and conflicts of the state's politicians.
Chief sponsor of the disclosure measure, DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler said without the new law there are big loopholes "that these groups can drive truckloads of cash through."
But some -- particularly the influential National Rifle Association and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life -- believed the law would have wrecked havoc on the work they do to inform voters.
“These fatally flawed bills pose a grave risk to freedom of speech in Minnesota and impose excessive regulatory burdens on political and commercial interests,” the NRA told supporters in March.
Thissen started this year saying that he thought the House was ready to pass the disclosure bill and has said he personally supports it. But on Monday, he halted debate on the issue when Winkler brought the measure up on the floor, which speakers rarely do to members of their own party, and Tuesday he said he not gotten enough DFLers on board to pass the bill yet this year.
"We trying to get to that point, but we haven't been able to convince all of our members," Thissen said on Tuesday.
Winkler, of Golden Valley, said he will continue to push the measure next year, if he wins his seat again.