Minnesota House Taxes Committee members on Saturday passed a comprehensive tax bill that would dramatically slash state aid for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.
Republicans spent part of the last two days beating back DFL proposals to restore aid to those cities, which Democrats argued would prevent property tax increases. Republicans said cuts and possible tax hikes would make local government more accountable to voters.
"I believe so much in that personal responsibility concept and that city officials must be masters of their own fate, as pleasant or unpleasant as it is," said Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake.
Democrats said Republicans who won control of the House in the last election have ignored campaign promises to ensure that the state lives within its means. The GOP budget proposal spends about $1 billion more than Republicans said they would during the campaign, DFLers said.
State Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, read quotes from Republicans on the committee made during last year's election campaigns saying that the state's $32 billion budget would be plenty.
"When people win and lose on these statements," they have to be held accountable, she said.
Committee chairman Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, shot back that he'd like to discuss Democratic President Obama's list of unfulfilled campaign pledges.
The two days of committee hearings could have ingredients included in the final budget comprise.
It's unclear how the House proposal will mesh with the Senate version. Once the two bodies work out their differences, the plan appears destined for a veto by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. From there, the two sides will try to reach a budget compromise before the session's May 23 deadline.
Democrats were unable to block Republican proposals to whittle away at the state's $5 billion projected shortfall, including a plan to dramatically reduce the renters' property tax rebate.
"You all do what you want, but the governor's going to veto the bill," said Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul.
DFLers are upset that the deepest cuts would be inflicted on heavily Democratic areas. "It does seem awfully fishy," Paymar said. "It's blatantly political and blatantly mean-spirited."
Republicans said the cuts were not politically motivated, but since those cities eat up the largest chunks of state aid, they are the most obvious areas to cut.
"It's where we can make up the most money," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa.
The bill now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee.
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