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Dayton offers three legislative priorities

  • Article by: WARREN WOLFE
  • Star Tribune
  • April 9, 2012 - 9:22 PM

With legislators facing election-year pressure to adjourn and campaign, Gov. Mark Dayton wrote Republican leaders on Monday suggesting ways to reach agreement on a Vikings stadium, a bonding bill and spending the $27.7 million that Minnesota recouped by capping profits at four plans that administer state health insurance programs.

Dayton would spend much of the health plan windfall reversing budget cuts enacted last summer, particularly a 20 percent pay cut for personal care attendants who care for frail or ailing relatives.

The governor's letter "is positive and constructive -- after a time where we haven't had the greatest communication," said Steve Sviggum, the communications director for Senate Republicans. "We want to meet with him later this week and see if we can come to a win-win for Minnesota."

Dayton's letter was sent to Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, and House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove. Both were at district meetings during the week-long spring recess and neither had seen the letter by late afternoon.

Among other items, Dayton suggested cutting broader business taxes by "closing the tax loophole" for corporations' foreign operations and online sales.

"We worked well together to design, pass and sign another significant bill" that speeds the environmental reviews of industrial projects, Dayton wrote. "Hopefully, that success will pave the way for other agreements, in areas including tort reform, the fight against Asian carp and other [environmental] projects."

While Sviggum's overall response was favorable, he said the Legislature's Republican majority continues to have important disagreements with Dayton. He said they may be "pretty close on the health and human services spending, but we've got some different tax priorities," although all of the governor's suggestions should be considered.

"We've got a steep hill to climb" on bonding, restoration of the state Capitol and a new stadium, Sviggum said. "Especially the stadium. That's the steepest hill."

Even with support from Republican leaders, all three of those bills will need significant DFL support, in part because bonding bills require a 60 percent majority to pass, but also because of expected Republicans defections. "The governor's got to do some heavy lifting, not just the legislative leadership," Sviggum warned.

Warren Wolfe • 612-673-7253

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