DFL legislative pay raise claim takes another hit

A version of the Minnesota DFL campaign flier, this one targeting Woodbury Republican Kelly Fenton, includes the disputed claim about pay raises. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Democrats in the Minnesota House are still using a claim about legislative pay raises in their bid to win majority control from Republicans in November, despite independent media analyses that have found the claim to be false.

Campaign mailers from the Minnesota DFL Party contend that incumbent House Republicans voted to give themselves a 45 percent pay raise. The mailers have targeted incumbent Republicans whom Democrats believe are vulnerable.

The Star Tribune editorial board  on Wednesday became the latest media entity to challenge the accuracy of the claim. Fact-checkers at WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV  previously said the claim was false.

But House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, is not backing down.

“They put themselves ahead of every other item of business,” Hortman said.

Minnesota voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2016 that took legislative salary decisions away from lawmakers and gave the responsibility to a new independent council. It was a DFL-backed bill that put the question on the ballot. Once formed, the council gave legislators their first raise since 1999.

The percentage of the raise is correct. Other details are not.

There was never a specific vote on the salary increases. The DFL instead points to a budget measure passed by lawmakers at the beginning of the 2018 session that restored the legislative funding that DFL Gov. Mark Dayton had line-item vetoed the previous year.

Hortman contends that Republicans prioritized the funding measure while failing to complete other important work, including bills related to elder abuse and opioid addiction. She says the campaign material simply highlights those points.

“That’s entirely fair game, the Republicans priorities, what they chose to do and the order they chose to do things in and the fact that they never got the rest of the work done,” she said.

Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt tried to block the pay raises from moving forward. He relented after two legislators, one Republican and one Democrat, filed a lawsuit.

Daudt suggested Democrats were using “false claims” to distract from their “extreme agenda.” He said Hortman “owes Minnesotans an apology.”

Daudt said he has considered lodging a formal complaint about the campaign material. But he added that current state law allows candidates and political parties to say just about anything.

“Frankly, I think the court of public opinion is where it should be tried, and I think that’s what’s happening right now,” Daudt said.


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