Republicans take budget bills to floor, though Gov. Dayton says he will not sign them

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

The House today (Tuesday, May 17) took a vote on Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s compromise budget proposal — one including a fourth-tier income tax, “snowbird tax,” and other tax increases amounting to $1.8 billion.

Dayton proposed the tax increases along with budget cuts yesterday as a budget compromise, one summarily rejected by Republicans.

Not surprisingly, the governor’s tax proposal was voted down in the Republican-controlled House on a 73-60 vote.

“Zero,” said Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, of a willingness in the House Republican Caucus to accept tax increases. “There’s not even a chance,” said Abeler, speaking off the House floor.

All but two House Democrats voted for the Dayton tax increases — one voted against, the other didn’t vote.

The proposal prompted more than four hours of debate in the House.

Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, backed the Dayton proposal. “I want to vote for a (state) budget that’s fair for all Minnesotans,” she said.

House Tax Committee Chairman Greg Davids, R-Preston, argued the Dayton proposed tax increase affected many more Minnesotans than just the wealthiest two percent. “There you go again,” Davids chided Democrats.

With less than a week left in the legislative session, Republican leaders have decided to begin to pass their budget bills even though no agreements exists with the governor.

“I don’t know what the governor will do with it,” said House Education Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, of the “bold and beautiful” K-12 conference committee budget bill.

Speaking after a morning meeting with Republican lawmakers, Dayton indicated that he would not sign any of the Republican budget bills without an overall, global budget agreement.

Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee Chairman Mike Parry, R-Waseca, said Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter told him that the state government budget bill would be vetoed.

Senate Republican leaders spoke of their unhappiness over the status of budget talks.

“We need to see meaningful negotiations,” said Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo.

Republicans complained that Dayton state agency commissioners didn’t seem empowered to negotiate.

Senate DFL leaders insist it’s the Republican committee chairs that appear powerless to bargain.

Republicans, who stood shoulder-to-shoulder yesterday in a mass rejection of Dayton’s budget compromise proposal — Koch indicating tax increases were nonnegotiable — explained that Dayton has suggested to them he was willing to hold out until 2012 to get tax increases.

“I don’t think he’s serious about getting the job done,” said Senate Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Republicans from the start have underestimated the resolve of the governor.

Beyond this, Republicans are following the same winner-take-all mentality that former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty practiced, explained Bakk. “I think that’s a serious mistake,” he said.

Pawlenty’s attitude poisoned his dealings with the Senate DFL Caucus for much of the governor’s time in office, said Bakk.

Senate and House Republicans began taking their conference committee budget bills to their respective floors this evening. It’s likely lawmakers will work late into the night.

House and Senate tomorrow could be taking up more conference committee budget bills.

The legislative session constitutionally must end on Monday.

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