Dayton praises DFL's legislative achievements

Gov. Mark Dayton
Gov. Mark Dayton addresses the media as he and Democratic leaders outlined the accomplishments of the just-completed Legislative session, Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in St. Paul, Minn. Behind him, left is House Majority Leader Erin Murphy and right, House Speaker Paul Thissen.
Jim Mone/AP

Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday signed major pieces of legislation that fund public construction projects and provide tax cuts for Minnesotans.

At a news conference with DFL House and Senate leaders, the governor declared the recently-completed 2014 session a big success. Dayton said Democrats who control the Legislature should be proud of their work over the past two years.

"I was asked two years ago what would happen if we had a DFL governor and a DFL Legislature, and I said one word: 'progress,'" Dayton said. "And that's what we've achieved."

Lawmakers had the luxury of a $1.2 billion budget surplus to work with this session. Although Republicans disagreed and said Democrats spent too much money, this session the Legislature passed a number of significant bills, among them:

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Legislators passed a $1.1 billion package of public construction projects. The projects were divided between two bills: an $846 million bonding measure and a $200 million cash appropriation from the state budget surplus.

A large share of the funding, or more than $279 million, goes to college campuses. The biggest single project is the $126 million needed to complete the state Capitol building renovation. But legislators also included $100 million for affordable housing and $22 million for the Lewis and Clark water pipeline in southwestern Minnesota and money for several regional civic centers.

Supplemental budget bill

Lawmakers used a $283 million supplemental budget bill to spend the remaining, available slice of that pie. Among the things the money will pay for are home and community-based health workers, K-12 schools, road repairs and rural broadband.

Tax cut

The House and Senate took quick action on a bipartisan bill to provide $103 million in tax cuts, including property tax reductions for farmers, homeowners and renters. The session's second tax bill will bring total tax cuts to about $550 million.

Dayton, who is running for re-election this fall, also assessed his own job performance over the past four years, including last year's income tax increase on top earners. The governor, who did not use any line-item vetoes to trim the bonding or spending bills, said the progress of the past two sessions working with DFL majorities, was a sharp contrast to the previous two years, when he frequently clashed with the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

"The facts speak for themselves," he said. "You can make up whatever theory you want. But when there are 159,000 more people working in Minnesota today than in there were in 2011, and when Minnesota is the fifth best state in terms of growth and GDP, it's pretty hard to argue with success."

Dayton's upbeat review of the session came a day after Republican leaders offered their own, pessimistic assessment. Not surprisingly, they don't believe Minnesota has been well served by having Democrats in charge. GOP House Minority leader Kurt Daudt said he hopes the end of single-party control is near.

"Democrats continued their old habits of taxing and spending as a solution to every problem," said Daudt, R-Crown. "What we found out was they've driven us from a healthy, recovering economy back toward deficit spending and unhealthy taxing and spending, hurting Minnesota's economy and hurting Minnesota families."

Daudt and other Republicans are trying to win majority control of the House this fall, while Democrats are trying to hang onto it. Both sides have shifted into campaign mode.

Appearing at the governor's news conference, House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he welcomes a conversation with Republicans about taxes.

"If the Republicans would like to go out, complain about the taxes we raised, they also have to go out and say, 'we don't want to invest any more in education. We don't want to invest any more in transportation. We don't want to invest in jobs and economic development. We don't want to invest in caregivers who provide help in nursing homes and in home care all across this state,'" Thissen said. "Because they can't have it both ways."

There are still more bills that need action over the next two weeks. Dayton said he has about 30 bills remaining, including the bill to legalize the limited use of medical cannabis. He also hinted that he might veto two bills. One deals with public safety data. The other would prevent the Minnesota Lottery from offering its games online and at gas pumps.

What's in the bonding bill