Republicans defeat Dayton tax plan amid accusations from both sides
ST. PAUL -- Minnesota legislative Republicans went after Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's budget plans Tuesday, with the House defeating his watered-down tax proposal and both chambers working late into the night passing spending bills over administration veto warnings.
With six days remaining in the 2011 regular legislative session, rhetoric escalated and the two sides appeared further apart than ever on eight spending bills and one tax measure.
The House rejected 73-60 Dayton's tax proposal on a mostly party-line vote Tuesday, one day after he cut his proposed tax increase in half to make it more tolerable to Republicans who do not want to raise taxes.
Debate on his latest proposal, raising income taxes on married couples earning more than $300,000, grew heated in the House Tuesday even as many Dayton commissioners sat down with Republicans who control the Legislature to negotiate budgets.
However, each side said the other side refused to negotiate in a series of Tuesday meetings.
"We got nothing from the five commissioners that came to my meeting," Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said Tuesday night about an environmental budget meeting.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook and fellow Democrats claimed Republican negotiators said that they would not consider changing bills to meet Dayton administration requests.
"We need to see meaningful negotiations," Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, said during a day that ended with no progress on a two-year budget of at least $34 billion.
Dayton's office and Republican legislators' staffers were trying to schedule a time when the governor could visit GOP caucuses today or Thursday to discuss the budget.
If Tuesday's four-and-a-half-hour House debate about the Dayton tax plan is any indication, those Dayton-Republican meetings could be interesting.
Rep. Steve. Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, said that Minnesotans do not accept Dayton's new plan to raise taxes on the richest 1.9 percent of Minnesotans
"They sent us here back in November to put an end to runaway spending," Drazkowski told Democrats who supported the Dayton tax plan.
But Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, said Dayton's plan is better for rural, poor and older Minnesotans because it allows the rich to pay more to state government.
"If you are a senior citizen on a fixed income ... you are paying 25 percent more of your income than a millionaire in the state of Minnesota," Marquart said.
Raising his voice so much that the public address system was distorted, Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, said the rich need to contribute more to state programs.
"We need to have a fair and balanced approach," Gauthier shouted.
Added Rep. Kent Eken, DFL-Twin Valley: "I would ask that we cease in the class warfare."
On the other side, freshman Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, promised not to raise taxes because they "kill businesses and grow government."
"Quit with the rhetoric and stop grandstanding," Franson said.
The debate became heated at times, providing a climax to a legislative-session-long debate with Republicans on the side of relying on program cuts while refusing new taxes and Democrats saying a mix of higher taxes and budget cuts are needed.
Republicans say they compromised in setting a budget target of $34 billion, when many of their members wanted to spend $30 billion or $32 billion in the next two years. The proposal Dayton offered on Monday brings his spending plan down to $35.8 billion from $37 billion.
"I am pessimistic because they refuse to compromise," Dayton said.
Several Dayton commissioners have begun work on what to do if lawmakers and Dayton do not agree on a budget by July 1 and the government runs out of money.
If no deal is reached by adjournment day on Monday, Dayton could call a special session to finish the work. The real deadline is June 30, the final day of the current budget. If no deal is reached by then, much of state government could shut down.
Twin Cities freelance writer Andrew Tellijohn contributed to this story. Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co., which own the Bemidji Pioneer.