The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State budget: a closer look

July 2, 2011

State shutdown: Q&A with local legislators

The Free Press asked area lawmakers the following ques­tions Friday as the state shut­down began:

Do you have an obligation to support a budget com­promise if that requires accepting a plan you strongly disagree with or that violates campaign promises?

If not, how does this shutdown end if the other side feels the same way?

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, Dist. 24: “I’ve never signed a no-tax pledge, but I have principles that make me a good Republican and that is not agreeing to an income tax increase of any kind. But I have voted for fees, sur­charges, some taxes, so a com­promise needs to be in the works. There is not one vote in my caucus for an income tax top-tier increase.”

Sen. Kathy Sheran, DFL-Mankato, Dist. 23: “I have an obligation to engage in compromise, which means I’ll have to give up some of what I believe is in the best interests of the state.”

Sen. Al DeKruif, R-Elysian, Dist. 25: “ We represent all the peo­ple in our district, but a majority of people in our dis­trict elected us to come here and do a job. People elect us based on our stand. I was very truthful on what my stands were and I plan to look
at the facts and vote my conscience.

“ The governor and I might have an impasse. Gov. Dayton said we’re a group of freshmen who don’t understand government and don’t want to learn. What he ran into is they elected a group of businessmen. I know what it’s like to make tough decisions, how to live poor. I don’t know how to think like Gov. Dayton, because I don’t have a trust fund. But the governor doesn’t know how to think like I do.”

Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, Dist. 26: “ We did (support a budget compromise, involving a school funding shift and borrowing against future tobacco settlement payments) but the governor pulled it off the table.”

Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, District 23A: “I would accept any reasonable compromise. I don’t have any one thing in my mind that has to be in the compromise, other than it has to be a mix of cuts and revenues. ... Does it have to be an increase in the income tax on the top 1 percent or 2 percent? I’m open to other alternatives.”

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, Dist. 24B: “My only obligation is to my constituents and what I feel is right or wrong. ... So I wouldn’t say I have to vote for a compromise if it involves a tax increase.”

Rep. Kathy Brynaert, DFL-Mankato, Dist. 23B: “ The likelihood is that whatever the settlement is, there will be some elements in the settlement that will be less than ideal for all parties. But it would be my responsibility to be able to speak to those and say why I am able to accept these less-than-ideal components.

... I would hope to be voting for it because the overall balance is in the best interests of Minnesota.”

Rep. Glen Gruenhagen, R-rural Glencoe, District 25A: “ That’s a hypothetical.

Based on what I’ve seen of the proposals (offered by legislative leaders), I’ve been able to support those.

... How does this end? By the people of the state of Minnesota insisting that the governor signs the bill we agree on and pass a lights-on bill (based on current spending) for the portion we don’t agree on.”

Could you support revenues from expanding the sales tax, gambling expansion, taxes on alcohol and tobacco or other tax increases?

Rosen: “Absolutely. I’ve been on bills for alcohol taxes and things. The alcohol tax hasn’t been on the table. Extra revenue from gaming, absolutely. I support a sales tax reform and expansion, but not on food or clothes. It’s hard to say what that would generate as far as revenue.”

Sheran: “I’m open to a variety of revenue streams as long as we look at it comprehensively to make sure the burden isn’t placed only on the poor and the middleclass.”

DeKruif: “I’ve said all along I’m not opposed to racino for instance.”

Parry: “I, along with 80 percent of the others in the state, believe we should have a racino. ... We do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.

The sooner the governor realizes that, the sooner we’ll have an end to this government shut- down.”

Morrow: “I’m open to talking about a number of alternatives. It depends on the size, the impact of the package that’s put together.

I don’t want one group alone to be impacted by the budget solution — that includes college students, the ill, the disabled, property taxpayers, nursing home residents.”

Cornish: “No. The only revenue I would support would be a fee or surcharge, nothing to do with a tax.

For instance, a $20 increase on the fine for a criminal (driving) ticket would be $20 million for the state (roughly the difference between Dayton and the Legislature on public safety budget spending.)”

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State budget: a closer look