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Bakk: 'Some people (will) probably lose elections' over tax increases

  • Blog Post by: Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
  • April 22, 2013 - 11:50 AM

Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said on Monday morning that some lawmakers will lose re-election because of tax increases that will pass this session.

"Some people are probably going to lose elections because we are going to raise some taxes," Bakk said at a University of Minnesota forum. "And Minnesotans...aren't going to understand why we need to do that but sometimes leading is not a popularity contest."

Bakk said that the 'die is cast' on higher income taxes on the wealthy and on the cigarette tax. Both will go up this year, although he said the Senate will likely include more high income people than other DFLers have proposed but at lower rate than some of the plans already released. Details of the Senate plans will be released in the next few days, perhaps voting on a tax bill on the Senate floor Saturday or Monday.

The House, meanwhile, included in its tax bill, a higher tax on alcohol and a surcharge on high earners. While at the same forum House Speaker Paul Thissen defended those -- and the fees included the House plan -- Bakk said neither would be in the Senate tax bill.

Bakk also said the alcohol tax the House is proposing will end up being higher than the seven cents a drink they've pitched.

"It's more than that," Bakk said.

Thissen said the new alcohol tax will only work out to about $25 a year for someone who has a beer every day.

"It hasn't been raised in over a quarter of a century, so it is probably a fair discussion." Thissen said.

Bakk, DFL-Cook, also said that unions, a key constituency for Democratic-Farmer-Laborites, will be disappointed by some of outcomes of this session.

He said that the unions want a higher minimum wage than the Senate will pass and the Senate is not moving on the labor requirements unions want to add to some public projects.

Bakk, a retired carpenters' union negotiator, also said the push for unionization of child care and home health care workers will be a "tough pull and they (the unions) know that's a tough pull."

"I'm not sure they're going to accomplish that," Bakk said of the drive to include more workers in unions. He said he did not know if the unionization drives would even get votes on the Senate floor.

He also said that the Senate is not moving on some other labor priorities, including licensure for teachers and two-year unemployment benefits for locked-out employees and some union folks are mad at him. But, he said, he can live with that.

"My union card is 37 years old. There are things you can do and the things you can't get done," said Bakk. "It’s been a challenge kind of managing their expectations."

The Senate leader also said that the Senate is also unlikely to vote on either a bonding bill or a measure to legalize same sex marriage before the House indicates it has the votes to pass those measures.

"I'm not too interested in taking votes on controversial things that aren't going to become law and sending them over to the House to have them maybe fail," Bakk said.

He said the Senate would have the votes to approve same-sex marriage. Thissen said last week that he didn't know if there were the votes in the House to approve that measure but, in any case, would not vote on it until it had completed passage of its budget bills.

Bakk said the Senate did move on raising pay for lawmakers and the governor, something the House has not backed, but he hopes to force that issue in the House.

© 2014 Star Tribune