MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Top Republican leaders are warning of layoffs at the legislature because Democratic Governor Mark Dayton vetoed their operating funds.
But court documents filed this week by the governor says lawmakers could have much more money if they didn’t spend it on possibly questionable items.
The rare look at House and Senate expenses is part of a bitter budget battle between the Democratic governor and the Republican legislature.
It is a troubled political marriage that Gov. Dayton declined to discuss with reporters Wednesday.
“I have nothing more to say about the mediation process,” Dayton said. “If it’s not successful, I’ll have a lot to say.”
Dayton says in court documents the House and Senate spent at least $335,200 in 60 days between July 1 and Sept. 1 — expenses he says they could have saved during a time the legislature did not meet for a single day.
Expenses included in the court documents include:
- Minnesota State Fair tickets costing $3,750.
- $1,550.58 for bottled water.
- $481.54 for flowers.
- $5,950 for two staffers to attend an out-of-state conference.
The documents also reveal the House and Senate subsidizing year-round apartments for part-time lawmakers.
In July and August of 2017, the House and Senate spent $135,000 on apartments and furniture rental.
In St. Pail alone, lawmakers live at the Penfield, Kellogg Square, Mears Park Place and more.
Taxpayers also subsidize the lawmakers’ apartment furniture. We saw bills from Cort Furniture Rental and Quality Furniture Rental.
The perks package is part of the benefits all lawmakers receive — Democrats and Republicans:
- They’re paid $45,000 a year, even though the job is part time.
- On top of that, per diem: on average, at least $8,640 in 2016.
- Payments for travel inside their district — no receipts.
- And for those who live at least 50 miles outside the Twin Cities: up to $1,800 a month for year-round apartment subsidies.
Republican Senate leaders call the spending list “inaccurate” and “incomplete,” but they don’t dispute the individual spending items.
But even if the money wasn’t spent, it would not prevent a single layoff.
House Republican leaders declined comment.
Republican Senate leaders disputed the list, issuing this statement:
This document originated with the Governor and MMB, and is an inaccurate list of general fund expenditures.
For example, an entire month of member payroll is missing in July.
MMB’s descriptions of some items are also difficult to understand and misleading. For example, “charitable donations” are not made by the Senate but represent a pass-through payment of employee and member payroll deductions.
Here Are The Court Documents We Used For This Reality Check: