Minnesota lawmakers are caught in a dust-up over office space at the State Capitol, and it’s threatening to delay the massive Capitol restoration now underway. The three-year, $272 million project is on time and on budget. But the tenants in the new building — including the governor, the Senate, the House and the attorney general — cannot come to agreement over how much space they will control.
Minnesota lawmakers kicked off the new session Thursday with a sweeping package of unusual legislative priorities.
An altered power structure, new faces, old fights and an unrecognizable Capitol building will shape the Legislature’s 2015 session.
Armed with sales statistics tailored for each legislative district, the Minnesota Lottery chief is paying visits to lawmakers as he attempts to repair strained relationships and head off another showdown over tickets sold on the Internet, through automated cash-machines and at gas station pumps.
Talk of tax cuts has followed word that Minnesota’s budget will run up a $1 billion surplus. Top Democrats and Republicans separately raised the prospect Thursday of giving tax breaks with a portion of the surplus. The first dose could come soon in the next session as lawmakers weigh whether to match up Minnesota’s deductions and credits more closely with those at the federal level.
Minnesota’s top two political leaders met face to face Thursday for the first time since the election. They’re pledging cooperation, not division. Minnesota’s top two political leaders met face to face Thursday for the first time since the election. They’re pledging cooperation, not division. Over a luncheon of pork loin and potatoes, the Republican Speaker and Democratic Governor met face to face at the official Residence.
Top Democrats in the State House Friday approved a scaled-back version of a major new office building next to the Capitol, dedicated to the Minnesota Senate. The building’s original design had a soaring glass front, with a fitness center and reflecting pool. The scaled back version is slightly more modest, but no less controversial.
This legislative session has stalled out with battles over a proposed $90 million Senate office building and a proposed minimum wage increase. But the battle is not between Republicans and Democrats – it’s the Democrats who are fighting amongst themselves. With Democrats controlling the Minnesota House and Senate as well as the governor’s office, it’s the Democrats who are battling with each other over key issues.
An expensive office building for lawmakers at the Capitol is facing new scrutiny. The four-story glass, steel and stone complex would sit across the street from the Capitol, and include offices for 45 of Minnesota’s 67 state senators. But the cost and design are raising eyebrows, even from supporters like Gov. Mark Dayton, who called the project “overly lavish.”
Leaders of the Minnesota Senate say they hope to pass a $434 million tax relief measure on Thursday, though it’s not clear if differences with a House version will delay its path to Gov. Mark Dayton.
A month after instant “scratch-off” Minnesota Lottery ticket sales went live on the Internet, the pioneering venture faces a high-powered threat at the Capitol. The Senate leaders of both parties and tax committee heads in both chambers are seeking a one-sentence change in state law to permanently turn off the new portal for gambling. Among other issues, lawmakers are upset that lottery officials introduced the games without seeking their approval through explicit legislation allowing it.
Minnesota’s bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl has led to discussions about potential tax breaks. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders were meeting privately Wednesday about tax changes that could be needed to land football’s premier game. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk has said previously that the league expects cities that host the championship game will exempt player salaries from the income tax and lift taxes on game tickets.
Proposed amendments to Minnesota’s Constitution would be less frequent under a proposal backed by a state Senate committee. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk told the Senate State Government Committee Monday that it should be harder to change the state constitution.
Democrats who lead the Minnesota Legislature left no doubt Wednesday that a minimum wage increase of some kind will prevail in the upcoming session.
Don’t count on a sales tax rebate check like the ones that became popular in prior years Minnesota ran a budget surplus. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk said Monday that it’s unlikely his chamber would go that route if there are extra dollars for lawmakers to allocate next year. A forecast last week showed $825 million available but a new report will come out as lawmakers return in late February. The Democrat from Cook says his preference is to add more money to the state’s budget reserves, consider transportation investments and make other tax and spending decisions that don’t have a lasting budget impact.