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Republican senators criticize end-of-session antics

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WILLMAR -- Republican senators were disappointed with the actions of their DFL counterparts at the end of the legislative session Monday night.

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Sen. Joe Gimse, R-Willmar, and Sen. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville, were in Willmar on Tuesday to discuss the session, which ended at midnight Monday.

The DFL majority introduced a tax bill with less than 10 minutes remaining in the session. It included a $1 billion tax increase and was promoted as a way to wipe out the state's projected budget deficit.

However, it was headed for a certain veto by anti-tax Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Had the bill been introduced a few days ago, it would have been seen as a serious effort to address the state's budget problems, Fischbach said.

But when it was introduced at the last minute, "it was a ploy," she said. "They weren't sincere about it."

Gimse said he had been disappointed that discussion of the budget waited until the last few weeks of the session. "We kept asking every week ... where are the targets, where are your priorities," he said. "We thought we would see them in March."

Pawlenty is gearing up to trim the budget with line-item vetoes now and a process called unallotment in July.

Fischbach and Gimse said they weren't sure what all his cuts will be.

Medical care for childless adults with very low incomes and aid to local governments are already prime targets. However, the majority of the health care cuts will be in the second year, Gimse said, and he hopes the Legislature can find a way to reform and restore the program.

If the economy can "stop the downhill slide," the Legislature may be able to fix some of the other expected cuts, too, he said.

The local government aid is important to many of the towns in his district, he said.

The senators listed some things they felt the Legislature accomplished this year, including passing a primary seat belt law and a bonding bill. "Overall, I think the general business got done," Fischbach said.

Transportation legislation and veterans' legislation also passed with little controversy, Gimse said.

Gimse said he would continue to work on a proposal for a veterans home in the area. A proposal this year was not passed in both chambers, partly because those in the Senate wanted to wait until some ongoing federal studies are completed.

A bonding request for next year is ready to go, once a proposal can be tailored to the needs outlined in the studies, he said.

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