ST. PAUL, Minn. — House Republicans are moving to cut the Metropolitan Council chairman's salary in half, in a jab at Gov. Mark Dayton over a pay increase they believe went beyond the terms of a deal on commissioner salaries.
The governor and lawmakers appeared to have settled the dispute earlier this year with legislation that peeled back the major salary hikes that Dayton enacted for his cabinet in January. The fight reignited this month over Adam Duininck's pay, which at nearly $123,000 is twice as much as the salaries of previous leaders of the Twin Cities-area regional planning agency and double what lawmakers believed his pay would be. Duininck's position became a full-time job for the first time this year.
Dayton's administration has defended Duininck's salary as legal and prudent, saying he's paid the same rate but works twice as much as previous chairs, overseeing an agency with more than 4,000 employees that sets housing and transportation policies around the Twin Cities and runs its transit systems.
"The Legislature passed, and the Governor signed, legislation that reduced Commissioners' salary rates to their 2014 level, which has been applied to the salary rate of the current Metropolitan Council Chair," Dayton's spokesman Linden Zakula said in a statement Monday.
The House Republicans' budget for state agency spending wants to slash Duininck's pay to $61,414 under a bill released Tuesday morning.
"We're just bringing it back to what everyone understood that salary would be," said Rep. Sarah Anderson, a Plymouth Republican and chairwoman of the committee that handles state government financing.
The bill alters the council makeup itself, requiring all members to be an elected city or county official rather than letting the governor appoint anyone he chooses from the districts within the seven-county metropolitan region.
Dayton announced last year that the Metropolitan Chair position would become a full-time job. Since February, Duininck's salary has been set at $123,000. Dayton had originally set Duininck's salary at $145,000.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Tom Bakk was unwilling to reopen a dispute that led to a public falling out with Dayton, a fellow Democrat. Asked last week if he wanted to speak with the governor about Duininck's salary, he responded with a simple, "No."
The House bill would put other limits on pay for agency commissioners, capping raises at the lower end of the general inflation rate or the increase in median household income in the state.