DFL leaders declare session a wide-ranging success

MinnPost file photo by James Nord
House Majority Leader Rep. Erin Murphy, House Speaker Paul Thissen, Gov. Mark Dayton and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk stressed that they’d made good on their campaign promise to craft a structurally balanced state budget that didn’t include shifts or gimmicks.

The Democrats in control of Minnesota’s state government looked tired but pleased Tuesday morning, just a few hours after finishing up a grueling weekend-long tear of intense legislating.

They have a few regrets: not coming to a deal on increasing the minimum wage, not passing a larger infrastructure investment package and not addressing the mountainous backlog of transportation projects awaiting funding.

But the tired leadership stayed on message: This session was a success. It was the “education session” that they’d promised, with crucial investments in voluntary all-day kindergarten, early-learning scholarships and a tuition freeze for Minnesota’s college students.

They also stressed that they’d made good on their campaign promises to address skyrocketing property taxes and to craft a structurally balanced state budget that didn’t include shifts or gimmicks — positions that reporters had been hearing all session.

Republican legislative leaders disagree, however, and embarked Tuesday morning on a state fly-around to trash the DFL budget for raising taxes on middle-class Minnesotans and not reforming any state spending or programs.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, though defends the budget: “No gimmicks, no borrowing and we’re leaving to the next Legislature after the 2014 election no crisis to manage.”

“We did finally get past the partisan gridlock and balance our budget without gimmicks in a fair and honest way, and that is going to be a lasting legacy,” House Speaker Paul Thissen said, asserting that one-party control of state government turned out to be a successful proposition for Minnesota taxpayers.

The DFLers — who late Monday night wrapped up a $38 billion state budget that includes $2 billion in new taxes — now must sell the outcomes of this session to voters.

Democrats appeared genuinely to believe that they did the right thing.

“The nice thing about this, being able to stand up in front of you today, is to be able to say all this and not have it feel like spin,” Thissen said. “This is reality. These are things we actually did. I’m really proud that we can stand up here and not have to put some kind of media spin on the accomplishments we made this year.”

Bakk admitted they made some small mistakes that will have to be corrected next year and included some provisions that lawmakers will have to watch to see how they play out.

For example, the sales tax reform that Democrats passed on Monday evening includes a base expansion to some business services, including warehouse storage, that won’t go into effect right away so lawmakers can look for “unintended consequences.”

There will also need to be technical corrections to the tax bill next year, Bakk said, citing a different provision that made it in by mistake: a tax on farm machinery repairs.

“Everybody’s tired here, hasn’t slept in three days, so we have one little clinker in there. Like in any major piece of legislation, every one I’ve ever been involved in, you have to come back the next year and make some corrections to make sure that what you intended really happens.”

When asked to look forward, Bakk said he still had to digest all that legislators had accomplished this session, which ended technically at the beginning of today.

But he did have one forecast: Taxes aren’t likely to go up next year.

“We’re not going to have to come back here and raise new revenue next year because we have a balanced budget,” he said.

Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 05/21/2013 - 01:54 pm.

    What a contrast

    No government shutdown. No special session. Support for education. Increased fairness in the tax system. And time for same sex marriage.

    At the beginning of the session I boldly asserted that this legislature and its leaders could walk and chew gum simultaneously. I’m glad these leaders had the stic em to prove me right.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/21/2013 - 07:05 pm.

    As We Consider the Things that the DFL Failed to Accomplish

    Let us not forget that the Republicans noisily predicted that the session would not be able to finish its work on time, then did everything in their power to obstruct the legislative process to ensure that that turned out to be the case.

    If they had managed to prevent the timely ending of the session, they would have had a field day lying about why it didn’t finish on time and blaming the Democrats’ “inability to govern” (a claim I heard a Republican leader make preemptively the other day on MPR).

    Of course they didn’t succeed in forcing a special session, but they DID prevent some very worthwhile things from happening.

    But considering what they added to the session, one might almost suspect that they didn’t have a single idea about how to take the state of Minnesota back into the prosperous economic powerhouse it always used to be before those same Republicans began “fixing the business climate,”…

    which, of course, never translated into anything other than punishing average workers (especially those in unions); with the working poor being a major target, while protecting the ability of their wealthiest friends and corporations to avoid paying taxes at anything close to the level the rest of us pay.

    Our Republican friends can run around the state whining about “tax and spend” all they want,…

    and decrying the Democrats’ attack on “the sanctity of marriage” (even though they’ve already made it clear to us that their own leadership has NO respect for marriage, themselves),…

    but when all they have to offer is “a better business climate” even after we’ve all come to realize that what they mean by that, is that, given the chance, they’ll make us as prosperous as Mississippi, I suspect most of us don’t care to hear what they have to say,…

    even though they managed to trot out a few noisy “true believers” for each of their fly-by-night stops.

    In fact, I suspect at those stops around the state, if you listened carefully, you could almost hear the wind producing a sound like nervous whistling, almost as if someone were walking past an isolated graveyard after dark,…

    and desperately trying not to see that every gravestone in that cemetery bore the moniker “conservative Republican takeover of Minnesota.”

  3. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 05/21/2013 - 07:46 pm.

    It helps

    That the Governor won’t veto the bills because they don’t spend enough like he did two years ago. As long as he doesn’t veto the bills there won’t need to be a special session or government shutdown.

    Did the school shift money get paid here, the $860 million shift?

  4. Submitted by Logan Foreman on 05/21/2013 - 08:15 pm.

    If the republicans had been in charge

    Just more money for the rich and pennies of trickle down to the 99%.

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