The Republican chairwoman of the House State Government Finance Committee has invited Gov. Mark Dayton before the panel to defend about $800,000 in yearly pay raises he granted to his cabinet commissioners.

Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, sent the letter to Dayton on Tuesday morning. She offered him the opportunity to testify before the committee on Thursday or the following Tuesday. In a letter the day before to lawmakers spelling out his reasons for raising commissioner pay, Dayton had offered to explain his decision to lawmakers in person although he did not specifically offer to testify before a committee.

Dayton responded later in the day that he would be happy to meet with Republicans in a public forum to discuss the issue, but deferred on appearing before the full committee. 

Dayton and House Republicans have been tussling over his pay increases in recent days, which saw several of his commissioners get pay hikes as high as $35,000 per year. Dayton said it's needed in order to compete for top talent with the private sector. 

A law passed by the Legislature in 2013 granted Dayton authority to make the pay adjustments without further input from lawmakers, but House Republicans have begun pushing legislation meant to block the raises and withdraw the governor's authority to make them. 

Even if House Republicans pass legislation to interfere with the raises, it would have to be approved by the DFL-controlled Senate. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Tuesday that Bakk was declining comment on the matter until after a Senate DFL caucus meeting on Wednesday afternoon. 

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