Dayton, DFLers tout stadium, bonding billsAn otherwise “do-nothing” 2012 legislative session was saved from oblivion by the last-minute passage of a $975 million Vikings stadium bill and a $496 million bonding construction bill.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
An otherwise “do-nothing” 2012 legislative session was saved from oblivion by the last-minute passage of a $975 million Vikings stadium bill and a $496 million bonding construction bill.
That was the assessment by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and top state and regional DFL lawmakers Tuesday of the past four months of work at the state Capitol as the group spoke in Duluth as part of a state fly-around to tout their efforts.
“Thousands of people are going to be working on that stadium, and on the transit center in Duluth. Those aren’t just words, those are real jobs,” Dayton said, referring to $6 million included in the state bonding construction bill for the $27 million downtown transit hub supporters say will link bus, taxi and train passengers with hikers and bikers.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Republicans seemed content the past two years with passing little or no legislation to create jobs or move the state forward.
“We saved the Republicans from what would have been the largest do-nothing session in state history,” Bakk said, noting DFLers in the minority put up more votes than Republicans to get the Vikings’ stadium bill passed — 22 compared to 16 for Republicans who hold a 37-30 majority in the Senate.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, has said the last two Republican-led legislative sessions were successful by helping to “create a stronger economy that encourages job growth throughout our state, reduce the reach of state government and curb state spending.”
“Republicans brought fiscal stability back to the state budget,” Zellers said in a statement assessing the session that ended Thursday. “In just over a year, our state has gone from red to black. We turned a $6.2 billion deficit to a $1.2 billion surplus by supporting a strong private-sector economy, defeating job-killing tax increases and curbing state spending to stop the unchecked growth of government that burdens Minnesota’s job creators and taxpayers.”
“Our goal from Day One has been to improve the economic outlook of our state, reduce spending and reform how government operates,” Zellers said. “We accomplished these goals and laid the groundwork for the necessary, ongoing review and reform of government programs and spending.”
Bakk noted that the governor was sent only 245 bills over the two years of the biennial legislative session, the fewest of any Minnesota Legislature since 1869 when lawmakers met only every other year.
“They just didn’t think anything was important. They didn’t care if they passed any bills,” Bakk said of Republicans who control the state House as well as the Senate.
Bakk didn’t mention that Dayton also is vetoing those bills at a record clip. Dayton has vetoed 54 so far over two sessions, on pace to break former Republican Gov. Arne Carlson’s record of 179 over eight years (including pocket and line-item vetoes).
Like Dayton, Carlson governed while both the House and Senate were controlled by the opposing party.
Zellers said the Viking’s stadium issue seemed to overwhelm others as the session neared an end. And on Tuesday State Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said it was good the bill passed simply to get the issue off lawmakers’ plates. She said it “wouldn’t have been healthy” for lawmakers to spend another year debating the issue because of how much it distracted from other state business.
Meanwhile, Dayton’s office noted that Duluth will not experience another $300,000 cut in local government aid that had been expected. The governor this week signed legislation approving changes to last year’s significant LGA cuts that restores the $300,000 in additional state aid that Duluth was set to lose. Dayton said most cities stand to gain some from the changes in LGA.