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Paper trail: Contention over Senate budget

Briana Bierschbach//November 29, 2012//

Paper trail: Contention over Senate budget

Briana Bierschbach//November 29, 2012//

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Hiring is underway at the state Capitol after Minnesota Democrats regained majorities in both chambers on election night, but top officials in the Senate Republican and DFL caucuses are at odds over how much money is available to bring in new staffers.

All eyes are on the Senate chamber as the hiring process begins, after a tumultuous year that began with major staffing cuts to the then-DFL minority caucus. The caucus is still facing ongoing legal bills in a case with former staffer Michael Brodkorb, who was having an affair with former Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch. Brodkorb is suing the chamber for wrongful termination, a case that has already cost the state Senate more than $100,000 and could potentially end in a settlement.

Senate Republicans say they have left the DFL majority a $2.6 million surplus going into the 2013 session. The surplus can be attributed to prudent fiscal decisions made by Republicans over the last year,  Senate GOP spokesman Steve Sviggum said. That includes trimming $10 off daily per diem payments, a ban on out-of-state travel and a freeze on most hiring and raises. Senate Republicans had proposed to cut a dozen or more Senate DFL staff positions as their first action of the 2012 session, but those cuts were never enacted due to improvements in the budget, Sviggum said.

But Democrats are skeptical of that figure, citing a Nov. 6 memo from Ludeman to Senate GOP Chief of Staff Kevin Matzek and Senate DFL Chief of Staff, Tom Kukielka. In the pre-election memo, Ludeman refers to “significant” cuts to minority staffing in the 2013 session.

“The current Senate budget projects a budget target for each caucus and imposes significant reduction for the minority,” Ludeman wrote. “Our staff is prepared to assist both caucuses with HR and fiscal issues at any time.”

Senate DFL spokesman Amos Briggs said their figure seems “dubious.”

“Given what you see in that memo and their drastic cuts just a year ago, that seems like a dubious number,” Briggs said.  Briggs would not say what Senate Democrats believe is a more realistic incoming Senate budget figure.

See the full memo from Ludeman here.

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