Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Senate GOP Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, took questions this morning on The Daily Circuit.
Gov. Mark Dayton's tax and budget proposals continue to grind their way through the Legislature. A rosier budget forecast has improved the state's financial picture, but deep divisions remain between DFL and GOP lawmakers.
Given the better forecast, "It seems to me it would be reasonable for the governor to come back and say, 'We don't need to increase the tax burden on the economy,'" Hann said.
Bakk said he's been talking to businesspeople about the governor's proposal to tax business services and found "a lot of anxiety." Still, he said, businesses need to look at the overall plan, which would also lower the overall sales tax rate by 20 percent and benefit businesses.
It's easy to pick apart individual pieces of the plan, Bakk added. Smokers don't like the added cigarette tax, for instance. But the governor has proposed a plan that "in totality is very popular with the public." Minnesota, he said, is in the "middle of the pack" when it comes to overall taxes per person.
Hann disagreed, saying the state is not in the middle of the pack and will "probably be in top five for taxes when the governor gets done with us." Minnesota would have a tougher time competing with other states, he added.
After weeks of contentious hearings over proposed gun legislation, lawmakers have pulled back from outright bans on some weapons. A compromise may be at hand, but debate continues over exactly what steps to take.
Bakk said he'd support background checks for sales at gun shows, but didn't know if there was enough support for that in the Legislature.
The votes aren't there for huge gun-law changes — and there's no need for such changes, Hann said. Questions about enforcement and access to guns by people with mental health problems are important, but "legal ownership of guns has not been a problem in Minnesota."
Public money for Vikings stadium:
State officials had hoped new electronic pull-tab games would deliver the public money required to help pay for a new Vikings stadium. Recent data, though, show the games have been slow to catch on and may generate only half the money projected. Dayton has urged patience, but questions linger about what should be done.
Hann said the funding package needs to be reviewed in light of the drop in projected public money to help fund the stadium. "The Vikings better start thinking about how they come up with the money" to make up for the possible public shortfall, he said.
Bakk countered, "It's not the Vikings' problem."
Gov. Dayton has proposed spending more on higher education, arguing in his recent State of the State speech that "every biennium since FY '80-81, real state spending for all of postsecondary education has been higher than it is today."
GOP leaders, though, want to talk about how the schools spend their money. Hann said he's been talking to University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler and other higher education officials about costs.
"If you build a cost structure so massive that it can't be sustained, then you have a problem," he said.
LEARN MORE ABOUT THE STATE BUDGET
Read the complete forecast from Minnesota Management & Budget
See a visual breakdown of Dayton's budget proposal from MinnPost