Both DFLers and Republicans will go home happy after session is over

MinnPost photo by James Nord
Minority Leader Kurt Daudt speaking with staff during the Sunday floor session.

While the 2013 Minnesota Legislature still has unfinished work, it appears that both DFLers and Republicans will go home happy.

DFLers – in full control of state government for the first time since 1990 – will be able to boast of a long list of accomplishments that should satisfy their liberal base and perhaps appeal to folks in the political center.

Republicans will see some of these same accomplishments as potent political issues that they can use in next year’s gubernatorial and Minnesota House races, particularly in swing districts in suburban and ex-urban areas.

As usual, the final weekend of the session was long and often unruly, as the two houses struggled to complete their work, including final passage of the nine spending and tax bills that will constitute the state’s budget for the next two years. They must complete that work by midnight Monday.

Curiously, the House DFL leadership spent many hours over the weekend working on a bill that would enable two politically powerful unions to conduct organizing votes among child-care workers and personal-care attendants. The controversial bill diverted attention from higher-priority budget measures that benefited many more Minnesotans. The Senate-passed bill still awaits a final House vote.

Nonetheless, House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said Sunday that political gridlock is over and the 2013 session is shaping up as the most productive one she has participated in.

“We are completing work on the first structurally balanced budget since before the Great Recession,” Murphy said. “We are making historic investments in education, including full funding for all-day kindergarten and a tuition freeze that will help our debt-ridden college students. And we are providing meaningful property tax relief to middle class Minnesotans who have seen their property taxes skyrocket. “

Republicans saw it differently. Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, told colleagues that budget bills this session were “continuing the march toward more taxes and more spending and more government.”

“The message from the Democratic Party is, ‘It’s not enough. It’s not enough taxing. It’s not enough spending,’” said Rep. Pat Garafolo, R-Farmington.

DFL accomplishments

The DFL’s list of major accomplishments this session include:

  • Balancing the state budget, erasing a $627 million budget shortfall and repaying all but $860 million of the $2.7 billion school-aid shift used to help balance previous state budgets, with the remainder to come within four years.

  • Raising income taxes on the upper 2 percent of Minnesotans and making the state’s overall tax structure more progressive.

  • Delivering on promises to boost state support for K-12 education, including $134 million to fund all-day kindergarten statewide and $46 million for early childhood scholarships.

  • Imposing a two-year freeze on tuition at Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, and the University of Minnesota.

  • Establishing a health-insurance exchange that will allow individuals and small businesses to shop for coverage.

  • Enacting a law permitting same-sex marriage just a year after a Republican proposal to ban such unions was rejected by the voters.

For several DFL constituencies, there were obvious disappointments. Gun safety advocates were angry that the two houses shied away from any legislation – including bans on military-style assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines or expanded background checks – intended to stem gun violence.

Transportation advocates failed to secure increases in the metro sales tax for transit and the gasoline tax for highways. This failure likely will delay the development of the proposed Southwest Corridor light-rail transit (LRT) project and other plans to expand the regional transit system.

Childcare Union Protesters
MinnPost photo by James NordThe unionization forces, both for and against, never left the Capitol the entire weekend.

Barring a breakthrough on the final day of the session, organized labor will go home without an increase in the state minimum wage.  House DFLers passed a bill that would increase the state minimum wage from $6.15 an hour to $9.50, but Senate DFLers said they would not go higher than $7.75.

GOP issues

Members of the Republican minority also will emerge with issues they can talk about in next year’s political campaign. They likely will assail DFLers for:

  • Enacting the largest tax increase in Minnesota history, harming the state’s business climate and the 20,000 small business owners who pay individual income taxes on their business income.

  • Increasing state spending, growing government and adding 1,300 new positions instead of streamlining government and making it more efficient.

  • Attempting in the House to raise the state’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour, which they say would have been another job killer, particularly in rural Minnesota.

  • Trying to raise legislative pay and then proposing a constitutional amendment to do so.

  • Rushing to legalize same-sex marriage, which may not play well in some rural and suburban districts.

While Republicans were closed out of the tax and budget negotiations, they flexed their limited political muscles in the House to block an $800 million capital investment bill. House members voted 76-56 in favor of the measure, but that was five votes short of the three-fifths majority needed to pass a bonding bill. All but three Republicans voted against it.

Early Monday, the Senate approved a scaled-back $132 million bonding measure that includes money to repair the deteriorating Capitol building. Some version of that bill still could be passed before the two houses adjourn.

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by David Broden on 05/20/2013 - 11:32 am.

    The Winner was Politics not Focus on Good Government First

    The 2013 Session is to many of those in Mn who look to the legislature to be partners with the private sector including business and all citizens to build a better and growth focused Minnesota. The requiresa focus on good government first and politics second. If there is good government then politics will evolve to reflect support for those who enabled the progress for all of Mn. For many years we have been operating with poltiics first- 2013 was a clear winner for politics. The legislature and the governor failed on basic government improvements– when 2013 began many felt that this could and would be the year of Redesign, tax reform, and restart of Mn innovation in government, education etc. The many public policy groups and foundations in Mn with solid proposals seem to have been largely ignored in favor of special interest groups ( both are important parts of the lobbyiing/influence process). Reform died early due to the inability of leadership to see that a 21st century look at a how to govern a state would be key the future of Mn. Perhaps because the 2013 winner was politics — the 2014 election will be debated on the need for a new visison of the Mn legacy of innovation and opportunity for all of MN. I will be part of that if that evolves and I am sure that citizens from across the state feel the same way.

    Dave Broden

  2. Submitted by Terry Elliott on 05/21/2013 - 09:29 am.

    Oooh where to begin??

    Seeing the DFL in full control was an eye-opening experience. From the first week, the attitude was “Where to begin!??” They just had so many impulses to move on: raising taxes, passing gay marriage, banning guns, rewarding supporters. Most spent time and well, creativity! in adding items to the “new taxes” list– so many and so much that even Governor Dayton had to rein them in.

    (In a major faux pas, some hick put “liquor taxes” on the list– can’t do that! Resort and bar owners, together with liquor distributors raised a fit, so we’re still surrounded by cheap booze, despite all the ills it brings. Cigarette taxes went up again of course– no DFL supporting groups there!)

    They trotted out the new justification for paying back the teachers’ unions: now it’s “to close the achievement gap!” That’ll fly! Besides the truckloads of money, they postponed teacher evaluations passed last session for 2 more years. Minnesota Education: you’re welcome. Thanks for all the support.

    And now for party-building: let’s add more union members out of whole cloth. Child care workers, personal care attendants– what’s next, dog walkers?

    Yes the DFL was in their glory. (If only those pesky shooters didn’t outnumber “gun safety advocates” 100:1 and bog down their attempts to make felons out of everyday people.) But there’s always next time!

  3. Submitted by Jim Greg on 05/21/2013 - 09:49 am.

    GOP base

    All the points you mention as “GOP Issues” play ONLY to the GOP base which we know is shrinking. This “base” wouldn’t vote DFL anyway.

    As any small business owner will tell you, the emphasis on tax fairness, quality workforce and quality-of-life issues makes this session a plus for Minnesota.

    For us, finally having a state government focused on positive change: educate our kids, protect all families, fair taxation, common-sense gun-safety has a been a welcome change from the failed fear and austerity message of the right-wing.

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