The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 10, 2014

Spear column: From Taxes to DWI, Capitol pace quickens

Majority leader plows through Senate building dust-up, public perception

Minnesota House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, describes the 2014 session so far as “super productive” given all that has been accomplished even before the Easter break.

In an interview with The Free Press Thursday just before the session started, she also didn’t shy away from the controversies like the Senate office building hubbub and the dustup over the so called “DWI immunity” for legislators.

The House has moved quickly on a number of issues, but the route to efficiency has been made easier by a budget surplus and the fact that one party controls both houses and the governor’s mansion.

We suspect Minnesota taxpayers would be surprised if things weren’t moving quickly.

The House has so far approved plans for a $443 million tax break bill, and a “Tax Bill 2” that includes about a 5 percent increase in funding for home health care and community based workers, $45 million in additional property tax relief, a $25 million broadband incentive fund and $10 million aimed at Greater Minnesota Economic development.

That’s not a bad showing. The Senate appears to be moving just as briskly and it seems clear the session will end on time if not before the required adjournment of May 19.

Murphy touted the accomplishments and but explained controversies with a kind of resignation that goes with talking to reporters about things that seem to have been blown out of the proportion.

The Free Press editorial page had questioned the need for such lavish trappings that were coming with the $90 million Senate office building at a time many are still recovering from the recession. We also suggested the way it was approved fell short of Minnesota’s tradition of openness.

The House Rules Committee, for which the majority leader is chair, approved — after numerous public hearings — a scaled-down $70 million version sans extra parking ramp, sans reflecting pool and fitness center and sans big glass wall.

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