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Mendota Heights Legislators Object to Budget Deal, Closed-Door Negotiations

Local DFLers not happy with special session bills, tepid support for bonding bill.

Mendota Heights-area legislators said during today's recess that they aren’t thrilled with the source of revenue being used to balance the budget and end the state shutdown, and they’re not too happy with how the process has worked to the exclusion of the public and most legislators.

Gov. Mark Dayton and GOP leadership reached an agreement last Thursday to increase school aid shifts by $700 million and issue tobacco revenue bonds of $700 million to clear a $1.4 billion gap between their budget agendas.

“It’s not good legislation,” said Sen. Jim Metzen (D-District 39). He said that the bonds will cost the state $1.2 billion after interest.

“The source of the additional dollars to me is suspect,” said Rep. Rick Hansen (D-District 39A). “The tobacco bonds particularly, because that’s using bonding for appropriations.”

GOP leadership and the governor spent the weekend and Monday negotiating individual bills such as K-12 Education and the Environment bill, in addition to a bonding bill that will spend almost $500 million for capital projects throughout the state.

Some bills may largely resemble their predecessors from the regular session. It’s unlikely that the newly negotiated bills will receive more than a party line vote of confidence.

Rep. Rick Hansen (D-District 39A) said he only plans to vote for the Pension bill, which does not impact the state’s bottom line, and the bonding bill, which he said holds important appropriations for flood mitigation projects in the area as well as wetland preservation.

Metzen said he was unsure whether he will vote for the bonding bill. “It’s too small and there’s not enough in there around my district,” said Metzen. However, he did say that almost half of that spending will go toward salaries for workers, which could sway his decision.

The bonding bill was not available to the public as of 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Neither was K-12 Education or the Health and Human Services bills, two of the most disputed pieces of legislation this session.

“I think that this situation is particularly bad because literally the doors to the buildings were locked and people couldn’t even get in to see the formal negotiations,” said Hansen.

“This behind closed doors stuff isn’t right. (The public) should be able to come to the table and listen,” said Metzen. “That’s the way we’ve done it in the past and by and large they don’t need to do this stuff in secrecy.”

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