Legislature gets session done before clock strikes 12:00
ST. PAUL - The Minnesota State Legislature finished its 2013 session last night at midnight with rare precision as both the House and Senate adjourned at the same moment.
Democrat-Farm Laborers number among their accomplishments all-day kindergarten, property tax relief, and freezing tuition at state-run colleges and universities. House Majority Leader Erin Murphy says lawmakers listened, heard what Minnesotans had to say, and those are the things they, "Focused on and delivered."
Republicans point to a top-bracket income tax increase, cigarette tax hike and more government spending, and House Republican Leader Kurt Daudt says legislators came to a fork in the road, where they could, "Grow Minnesota's economy without raising taxes and make Minnesota more competitive, and the Democrats took the wrong fork."
The DFL-controlled Minnesota state Senate approved a top-bracket income tax increase and a hike in the cigarette tax last night just before the legislature adjourned its 2013 session. Governor Dayton is expected to sign the bill into law. Among many other objections, Chanhassen Republican Julianne Ortman warns that charging businesses sales tax for goods they store in rented warehouses will significantly increase the burden on farmers, as well as the Port of Duluth, and that businesses in border communities will also be hurt.
State Capitol renovation is the biggest-dollar project, at $109-million, in a scaled-back bonding bill the legislature passed last night just hours before adjourning. Grove City Republican Dean Urdahl says the project was shoved aside by politics, misplaced priorities, and tight budgets for years and now the building can get the long term commitment that it deserves. Also in the bonding bill: $22 million for a new parking ramp at the State Capitol; $20 million for flood mitigation; $19 million for the Minneapolis Veterans Home; $45 million for metropolitan regional parks; $11 million for Como Park Zoo plus funding for a number of smaller projects.
The legislative session has come to an end, with higher taxes on cigarettes, the state's wealthiest, and other things, and some analysts predict Democrats will lose their majority in the Minnesota House because of the tax hikes. House Speaker Paul Thissen of St. Paul says any repercussions will be "Positive ones, and Majority Leader Erin Murphy agrees. But House Republican Minority Leader Kurt Daudt predicts there will be political payback at the polls for Democrats, because a lot of the policies they passed are unpopular for Minnesotans, the tax increases aren't necessary, and, "They're not good for Minnesota's economy."
One of the DFL's stated top priorities -- a minimum wage increase -- didn't happen this legislative session because DFLers could not agree on the amount. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook predicts the issue will be back in the 2014 session. He says they'll meet with members of the business and labor communities, and come back next years with a conference committee report that will pass and increase the minimum wage."