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Dayton cedes power to Legislature in pay-raise deal

Office of the Governor
The agreement comes after weeks of back-and-forth negotiations between Gov. Mark Dayton and legislators over the commissioner salaries.

Well that’s that.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders finally reached an agreement to raise salaries for more than two dozen members of the governor’s cabinet  though Dayton ceded considerable executive power to do so. 

The tentative agreement, brokered between the governor, House Republican Speaker Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Bakk on Thursday, suspends recently enacted raises until July 1. But it also reverses a 2013 law change that allowed Dayton to increase commissioner salaries in the first place. Instead, the Legislature would have final approval of any salary hikes.

House members approved the agreement on a 106-21 vote Thursday evening, which was attached to a bill that pumps emergency funding into the Minnesota Zoo, the state’s security hospital in St. Peter and Ebola preparedness measures for the Department of Health.

The agreement comes after weeks of back-and-forth negotiations between Dayton and legislators over the commissioner salaries, which all together total about $800,000.

Republicans said the pay increases came at a time when many Minnesotans haven’t seen raises in years, but Dayton said they were needed to retain talented employees at the state level, many of whom could make more in the private sector. The deliberations also exposed some long-simmering tensions, capped off by a blowup last week between Dayton and Bakk, after the Senate voted to delay the raises until this summer. Dayton said he was blindsided by the move from a member in his own party, going as far as to say Bakk “stabbed me in the back.”

In the end, Dayton gave up considerable ground to get the deal, agreeing to combine both the DFL Senate and House Republican positions in order to move forward on the salaries. Last week, Dayton insisted that he would veto the emergency funding bill if it landed on his desk with the Senate proposal to delay the salaries, but he backed off that position in the agreement reached this week.

The biggest upside for Dayton: the deal puts an end to the contentious debate that has sucked most of the oxygen out of the Capitol over the last month.

In January, Dayton used a 2013 law allowing the governor to raise the wages of cabinet members to increase the salaries of 26 commissioners. Under the agreement reached Thursday, Dayton’s commissioners would immediately see those raises suspended. On July 1, Dayton will have a single day to set new wages for his commissioners. The following day, the power to approve all future pay raises switches to the Legislature.

The public was rightfully upset that the Governor single-handedly decided to raise commissioner salaries by more than $800,000 without their input,” said GOP Rep. Roz Peterson, who offered the proposal to rescind the governor’s pay raise power. This bill puts salary decisions back in the hands of the Legislature where the public can make their voices heard and be part of the conversation.”

Lawmakers still need to work out the differences in their bills in a conference committee next week before Dayton can sign the deal into law. And not surprisingly, not everyone is happy with the deal. Senate Minority Leader David Hann said Senate Republicans will continue to push for lawmakers to nix the salary increases altogether. 

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Comments (11)

  1. Submitted by jody rooney on 02/20/2015 - 09:38 am.

    So the Republicans are saying that

    executive pay has not increased in years? Is that true?

    We aren’t talking about the rank and file worker here we are talking about executives. I believe that was covered in the report previously cited in one of the articles last week.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/20/2015 - 11:58 am.

      Yeahbut…in the case of public employees, it is from the pockets of the rank and file that those juicy pay raises will be taken. Been several articles in the Star Trib and Pi Press about stagnant wages in Minnesota…guess they were looking in the wrong direction.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 02/20/2015 - 02:40 pm.

        Sauce For The Goose

        So the source of pay raises for public employees is the same source of raises for execs of Wall Street and the mega-banks? (That would be the government treasury).

        Ditto major league sports execs, where, like Wall Street, profits are private but losses are socialized. Come to think of it, does any major corporation locate a new facility without extracting subsidies from tax payers? What did Boeing get from South Carolina’s free marketeer Gov. Niki Haley when they moved there from Washington? And those auto plants built in the south the last decade or two?

        Gosh, it’s not so black and white anymore.

        • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/21/2015 - 08:06 am.

          Boeing got a union-free, business friendly environment. So did Micheline, GE, Bauche & Lomb, 3M and many others.

          BMW is spending a billion dollars to expand their state of the art plant, adding another 1000 high paying jobs!

          And still, none of our public employees received 35% pay hikes.

          • Submitted by Bill Gleason on 02/21/2015 - 10:34 am.

            And what attracted Boeing to South Carolina

            ” Boeing selected North Charleston, S.C., in 2009 to make and assemble its 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft, in large part because of the $900 million in tax breaks and other incentives the state offered over 30 years.”


            Tax breaks.

            So-called right to work states have lower wages overall than non “right to work” states …

            And the unemployment rate is:

            South Carolina: 6.5% (41st in US)

            Minnesota: 3.6% (5th in US)


            and of course household income in SC is much lower than Minnesota:

            Minnesota: $56,954 (11th in US)
            South Carolina: $42,367 (42nd in US)


            These facts make it quite clear why companies like Boeing love low tax, low wage states.

            The workers – not so much.

            • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/22/2015 - 08:51 am.

              $900 million over 30 years is a bargain to land thousands of high paying jobs. Salaries may be lower for some (I’m being compensated better here than I was in MN) but when you consider the lower cost of housing and a tax bite that is 1/3 of Minnesota’s most folks are doing very nicely thankyouverymuch.

              Boeing got a subsidy because they were moving a huge manufacturing plant from Seattle. BMW got tax incentives to open their first plant, but they are not receiving any for their billion dollar expansion.

              I don’t think 3M got any breaks when they built their plant here either. Why has 3M expanded anywhere BUT Minnesota over the past 20 years?

              I acknowledged the absence of union boss overhead is also an attraction. As is our business friendly government.

  2. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 02/20/2015 - 09:38 am.

    Unless I don’t understand this whole thing correctly, I’m agast that the law prior to this deal was that political appointees of the governor… were then paid according to the governor. Huh?

  3. Submitted by Colin Brownlow on 02/20/2015 - 09:40 am.

    This is just dumb

    Dayton gets his raises, but ultimately loses as he concedes executive authority on Commissioner salaries. The House Republican’s opposed the raises, but let them go through. Bakk and the Senate DFL generally supported the raises, but thought they should be phased in but subject to review. Instead the raises only get delayed, but go through intact and without review.

    One might have hoped for some sensible deal, with some sort of phased increase, with a future mechanism for independent salary recommendations subject to Legislature review. As it stands, all parties appear to have shot each other in the foot.

    • Submitted by Jonathan Ecklund on 02/20/2015 - 10:20 am.

      Perfectly Stated

      Colin, I agree on everything you’ve said here. As much as I’m thankful to have this ridiculous episode done with, I am worried that tying compensation increases to the legislative approval process is going to come back to bite everyone in the future. Obnoxious, all around, and entirely the fault of Bakk, and Co.

  4. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 02/21/2015 - 09:55 am.

    Substance v. process

    Another victory of substance over process. Too often we think that if we can come up with some sort of procedural response to a problem, we can solve it while avoiding political risk. But somehow, that rarely if ever works out. It’s probably the case that we under pay a lot of administrators, but in political terms it’s very hard to give them raises, and doing so involves a political cost. The commissioner thing is only the latest example of that. A lot of administrators will be making more money, but at the cost of strengthening the Republican Party going into the 2016 election, helping to secure their majority in in the House, and putting the DFL majority in the senate further at risk.

    I hope giving administrators a raise was worth it,

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 02/22/2015 - 03:34 pm.

      Don’t be silly

      If these raises are or would be some kind of fatal blow to the democrats in the next election cycle, they deserve to lose. The idea/fact? that such a mundane issue could be some kind of straw on the camel’s back just begs the question: “what are the other straws then?” You don’t think making the republicans look like the only adults in the room “weakens” the democrats? We’re used to seeing republicans blow up non-issues, now democrats think they’ll win elections by following the republican model? Again?

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