Gov. Mark Dayton wants to tweak the state budget to return some funding to emergency health care programs for the poor, enact programs to produce jobs and fight an invasion of Asian carp.
In all, the Democratic governor Monday called for $60 million more spending in the current two-year budget, funded by closing what he calls loopholes in corporate tax law and increasing fees.
Highlights of the governor’s plan include:
– $35 million to give a tax credit for employers who employ veterans, students and unemployed Minnesotans.
– $2 million to increase veterans’ program spending.
– $17 million to restore some health-care funding for the poor, especially emergency care such as chemotherapy and dialysis, that was cut last year. About 1,000 Minnesotans would receive added emergency benefits.
– $4 million more to fight invasive Asian carp.
– $3 million to keep the Willmar Specialty Health Systems facility open through June 30, 2013; its funding now is slated to end at the end of this month.
– $542,000 for the White Earth Nation human services programs.
Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, said he is especially pleased that Dayton wants to help veterans.
“As a veteran myself, I know how difficult the transition back to civilian life can be,” Persell said. “Given the sacrifices they have made to defend and protect our freedoms at home, we ought to do all that we can to support our vets and their families.”
For much of the increased spending, Dayton would do what many Democrats have proposed: reduce tax breaks corporations with foreign operations may receive.
“It is up to the Republicans whether to help Minnesotans or locate jobs over the ocean,” Dayton said.
“It’s a non-starter,” said Rep. Mary Liz Holberg, R-Lakeville, chairwoman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, issued a strongly worded statement: “Gov. Dayton’s supplemental budget is a surprise and a shock. We have managed Minnesota’s budget well in the past year from a $5 billion budget deficit to over a $1 billion surplus and the first thing the governor wants to do is raise taxes. Embarrassing.”
The plan would fund fighting Asian carp by raising hunting, fishing and boat fees.
A group of conservation groups will announce Tuesday that they support raising hunting and fishing fees. The state’s Game and Fish Fund will go into deficit next year without new revenues.
The state’s two-year budget tops $30 billion.
Stadium bill ready
A bill to finance a new Vikings stadium was officially introduced in the House and Senate Monday, and the first committee hearing could come Wednesday.
The bill, first released on Friday, would fund a $975 million stadium on the current Metrodome site in downtown Minneapolis.
Since Friday, some lawmakers are concerned that the bill would have the state’s general fund used to repay stadium construction costs if pulltabs and bingo do not bring in as much state revenue as expected.
There also is a question about whether the Minneapolis City Council supports the plan, which for many is a requirement.
Gov. Mark Dayton said that many Minneapolis City Council members are at a national meeting this week in Washington, D.C. So they will not be available to commit to supporting a stadium bill as it begins its way through the Legislature.
Dayton encouraged Minnesotans to let their legislators know how they feel about a stadium. “People’s voices need to be heard.”
Joining Rep. Morrie Lanning, R-Moorhead, on the House version of the bill are Reps. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter; Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake; Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park; Greg Davids, R-Preston; Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul; Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck; and John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove.
In the Senate, Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont is main sponsor, with co-sponsors Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, and Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook.
‘Not enough attention’
Two mayors say that legislators have spent too little time on greater Minnesota needs this session.
Mayors Alan Oberloh of Worthington and Dave Larson of Bemidji wrote that rural cities are struggling economically, but legislators have spent their time on “politically divisive issues that don’t create jobs.”
As usual, the mayors’ prime concern was increasing state aid to cities.
“Property taxpayers in greater Minnesota have been hit harder by cuts to local aids and credits than their counterparts in the metro area,” the two wrote.
The pair also suggested that lawmakers help rural economic development.
“There’s been some signs of economic recovery in our nation and state, but we need to make sure Greater Minnesota isn’t left behind,” the mayors said.
Photo ID overturned
A second Wisconsin judge ruled on Monday that state’s requirement for voters to show photographic identification before castings ballots is unconstitutional.
Dane County Judge Richard Niess said the Wisconsin photo ID law “undermines the very foundation” of a government: “the people’s inherent, pre-constitutional right to vote.”
Minnesotans are watching the Wisconsin action, which likely eventually will be decided by a higher court, because Minnesota Republicans also are pushing a photo ID requirement.
However, the proposal making its way through the Minnesota Legislature would change the state’s Constitution to require photo IDs, making it less susceptible to court challenges.
If the House and Senate approve the plan, Minnesota voters will decide the issue on Nov. 6.