DFL and GOP leaders express views of legislative action
WILLMAR - State legislative leaders from both parties were in Willmar Thursday to reflect on the recently concluded session. It should come as no surprise that they had differing views on the end results.
"I'm so happy," said Rep. Erin Murphy, the House DFL majority leader, during an interview at the Tribune. "We accomplished what we set out to do."
Sen. David Hann, the Senate Republican minority leader who left the Tribune office as Murphy was coming in, had a more grim assessment.
"It's a session of over-taxing, over-spending, over-reaching and that every Minnesotan is going to pay more as a result of the high taxes that have been put onto this budget by the DFL majorities," said Hann.
The higher taxes will be "burden to the economy" and will fuel the state's unnecessary 9 percent increase in spending, he said.
The legislature approved a tax increase on smokers, some businesses and the wealthiest Minnesotans and closed some tax loopholes.
Hann said it's not just the wealthy who'll be taxed more under the "wrong-headed" tax plan, but every Minnesotan.
But Murphy said most Minnesotans will see a decrease in their property taxes because of newly-passed legislation and Minnesota will make a long-overdue investment in education that will have a direct impact on the future of kids, jobs and the economy.
Murphy said legislators got the "clear message" from voters to balance the budget, pay back the school funding shift and invest in the future without political game-playing.
"It is really sweet, as an elected official, to come back to Minnesotans at the end and say 'we did what we said we'd do. We did what you asked us to do,'" said Murphy.
She scoffed at Hann's comments that DFLers took advantage of their political majority and "over-reached."
"If we moved an inch off the status quo, some of my Republican colleagues would call it an over reach," said Murphy.
Regarding the education package that provides school districts funding for all-day, everyday kindergarten, Hann said he would have preferred that schools got the additional money for their general fund without being required to spend it on kindergarten.
Hann also questioned claims that all-day, everyday kindergarten would reduce the education achievement gap. He said it hasn't worked in other states.
"If Republicans want to run against all-day, everday kindergarten," said Murphy, pausing a moment as Rep. Mary Sawatzky inserted, "Go for it."
Sawatzky, a teacher and DFLer from Willmar who accompanied Murphy to the Tribune, said the Willmar School District won't have to spend $350,000 on the extra kindergarten days anymore and can instead use that money for other general education programs.
The gay marriage and daycare union votes were also discussed.
Hann said a vast majority of the private, in-home daycare operators and personal care attendants that receive government subsidies don't want to unionize.
Hann said the only reason it was brought to a vote in the Legislature was because it was DFL political "payback" to unions that supported Democrats in their campaigns.
Murphy, a staunch union supporter, said Hann's comments about political payback were "offensive." She said the legislation simply gives people working in that field the "choice to organize" and the opportunity to vote to join a union.
Hann predicts the union issue will face a court challenge.
Sawatzky and Murphy took opposite votes on gay marriage even though they sit on the same political aisle.
Sawatzky voted against the gay marriage bill and said in the past her vote was a reflection of her constituents' wishes.
Sawatzky said Thursday that, personally, she would've been more comfortable with civil unions, rather than civil marriage.
Hann said the gay marriage vote was "radical" and is the piece of legislation that troubles him the most. He said it will affect religious liberties.
Whether the gay marriage vote will hurt or help GOP candidates in the next election, Hann said he's more concerned about what's good for Minnesotans.
Murphy said what bothers her most about the session are the bills that didn't get a vote or didn't get approved, like raising the minimum wage.
That issue, along with the bonding bill and correcting some unintended errors in the tax bill, will be facing legislators when they return to the Capitol next year.