Legislative notebook: Dayton budget plan delayed to ‘later in the week’

By Don Davis

Wrangling the numbers in a revised budget proposal forced Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to postpone its release.

His spokeswoman, Katharine Tinucci, on Tuesday tweeted the announcement will come “later in the week. Still working on final numbers.”

The Democratic governor released his original budget proposal on Jan. 22. It included $3.7 billion in tax increases as well as $1.5 billion in property tax cuts, leaving a $2.2 billion net tax increase.

Much of the new revenue would have come from expanding which services and goods fall under the state sales tax.

However, legislators and the public let Dayton know they did not like the idea, so he dropped it Friday. At the time, his office said he likely would release his new budget plan Tuesday. It did not happen Tuesday, and Tinucci said it was delayed again.

In recent public comments, Dayton did not back away from his proposal to increase income taxes on individuals who make $150,000 a year and couples who earn $250,000.

He also has indicated he plans to keep a cigarette tax increase in his new plan. He originally proposed raising the tax 94 cents.

He hinted that there may not be enough revenue in the new budget proposal to continue his property-tax refund plan.

Also, he said Tuesday that he expects to offer a $750 million public works financing bill. It is expected to include money for a Capitol building renovation project as well as civic centers in Rochester, Mankato and St. Cloud.

Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, said she was happy to hear Dayton’s $750 million plan.

“Investing in our state’s infrastructure through a smart, targeted bonding bill will help create jobs and strengthen our state’s economic future,” said Hausman, who leads the House public works financing committee.

Dayton proposed a $38 billion, two-year budget. Democratic leaders, who control the Legislature, have not released their spending plans.

University seeks efficiency

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler told the Senate higher education committee Tuesday that he is working to lower administrative costs.

More analysis is needed, he said. “When we have the data, we will make change to move. I often say when you don’t have the data, you can’t move.”

Even before he receives a final report about what needs to be done, money saving has begun. For instance, he said that $3.1 million in saving was found by making janitorial changes on the Twin Cities campus.

“I am not standing for the status quo,” Kaler told a House committee Monday.  “We’ve done much in streamlining a complex organization, but we have a long way to go.”

In the fall, Kaler said, work will begin to save money on the academic side of the university.

The president was responding to legislators’ request earlier this year to deliver them a preliminary report after the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story in January indicating the university spends too much on administration.

Kaler called it “an out-of-context story.”

Senate Higher Education Chairwoman Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, told Kaler that “absolutely you did” follow through with responding to legislators’ concern about administrative expenses.

Child care unions advance

A Senate committee late Monday approved a bill allowing home-based child care workers to join a union.

“These women deserve respect for doing one of the toughest jobs imaginable: helping raise our children,” bill author Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said. “They are professionals who are experienced, smart, dedicated and loving.”

The Pappas bill also would allow personal care attendants and others who serve the elderly and disabled to join unions.

The bill has more committee hearings before it reaches the full Senate. A similar bill is moving through the House.

Northstar provides homes

A part of Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed budget, now in front of the Legislature, would allow hundreds of Minnesota foster children to find permanent homes.

“Through Northstar Care for Children, we will reduce the number of children waiting for families as well as the length of time they have to wait,” Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson said. “We will provide financial support to meet children’s needs and ensure they grow up in permanent families they can count on for a lifetime.”

Dayton wants to spend $2.57 million on Northstar to encourage permanent adoptions and guardianships.

Jesson’s department estimates 2,003 children would receive assistance to live with families and another 6,418 children would get other adoption assistance. During 2011, 7,679 children were in family foster care.

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