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Home / News / Benson in, other Republicans eyeing CD1; Minnesota Poll: income, tobacco tax popular

Benson in, other Republicans eyeing CD1; Minnesota Poll: income, tobacco tax popular



DAYTON: Gov. Mark Dayton and the Minnesota trade delegation will be in Dusseldorf, Germany today, where they will meet with Geringhoff officials and, later, the State Ministry of the Environment. In the evening, Dayton will host a meeting with Consul General Stephen Hubler.


BENSON, OTHERS EYEING 1ST: Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, declared his intent to challenge DFL U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in the 1st Congressional District, and Benson’s name was soon followed by a cascade of other GOP possibilities. Also considering the race, according to the Rochester Post-Bulletin, are former Rep. Al DeKruif, former Sen. Mike Parry and Army Command Sergeant Major Aaron Miller. Meanwhile, Jim Hagedorn, who unsuccessfully sought the party’s endorsement in the 1st CD in 2010, said it was “premature” to make a decision, but that he wasn’t ruling out another run for the office. Parry, who lost a 2012 primary to Allen Quist — who, himself, went on to lose badly to Walz in the general election — later told the New Ulm Journal that he was also thinking about getting into the gubernatorial or Secretary of State campaign.

TAX HIKES POPULAR: The newest findings from the Star Tribune’s Minnesota Poll show strong support for a pair of the DFL’s new tax increases. The income tax increase,which will hit joint filers earning more than $250,000 with a new 9.85 percent top-tier level, found favor with 58 percent of respondents, with 36 percent opposed. The $1.60 per-pack increase on cigarettes, meanwhile, was even more popular, with 64 percent support and only 32 percent disapproval. The responses broke down along party lines, with 90 percent of Democrats expressing support for the income tax change, compared to the 76 percent of Republicans who don’t like it; among independents, the income tax increase received a 54 percent/34 percent favorable/unfavorable split. The poll has a 3.5 percent margin of error.

AG TAX BATTLE LINGERS: The perceived rift between rural Senate DFLers and metro area Democrats over certain portions of the tax bill is apparently still an issue, according to a Minnesota Public Radio report. Asked whether the DFL majorities would look to reopen the tax bill to change the warehousing sales tax or to exempt repair of farm equipment, Senate Taxes Committee Chair Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, was typically guarded. Skoe said that he, personally, had no plans to introduce a bill to address those topics, but said only, “We’ll see what other legislators do.” House Taxes Committee Chair Rep. Ann Lenczewski, DFL-Bloomington, is decidedly less interested in adding an exemption for repair on farm equipment, saying a move to specifically address one effected industry “wouldn’t be fair.” The machinery repair sales tax became a near-ruinous sticking point on the final night of the session,when it threatened to derail the DFL majorities’ efforts to adjourn on time.

ADMINISTRATION JOINS UNION SUIT: Gov. Mark Dayton‘s administration filed a legal brief encouraging a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit challenging legislation that would allow union elections for home daycare workers, according to the Associated Press. That suit is one of two brought against the controversial legislation, with the administration planning to push for both cases to be thrown out. In yesterday’s filing,  Solicitor General Alan Gilbert argues that the plaintiffs in the case, a group of anti-union providers, cannot prove at this point that they have been harmed by the legislation because the required union elections have not taken place, and member dues are not yet being collected. The governor’s office will argue that both cases should be dismissed on similar grounds in a July 18 hearing.

DAUDT’S AMBITION: A new profile from ECM Publishers finds House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt taking a regenerative post-session stay at a family lake cabin near his hometown of Crown. There, accompanied by his black lab, Daudt was found to be in a candid and contemplative mood. The second-term House member said he had received encouragement to join the crowded Republican field in the 6th Congressional District or seek a match-up with DFL U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan. (He lives near the border of both districts.) But Daudt said he feels it would be “self-serving” for him to leave the Legislature after only three sessions. Instead, his present ambition is to become House Speaker, which he spoke of with cautious optimism, saying, “I kind of think it will happen.”

DAYTON WANTS AG RELIEF: Gov. Mark Dayton has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, urging the secretary to grant Minnesota farmers a variety of allowances that would help them deal with a shortage of alfalfa. Dayton writes that the prolonged cold and wet  conditions did serious damage to livestock farmers, who depend on the alfalfa crop as feed, and is seeking U.S. Department of Agriculture funding for cover crops to make up for lost planting time, among other requests made in the letter.

IRRRB, SANS ANZELC, APPROVES LOAN: The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) voted to restructure the development loan granted to Excelsior Energy, assenting to the request of IRRRB Commissioner Tony Sertich, according to the Duluth News Tribune. Under the new terms, Excelsior, which has failed to open its planned power plant after more than a decade of planning, can defer principal repayments on a $9.5 million loan for several more years. If the loan remains unpaid in 2019, the IRRRB can move to seize all assets related to the project. Rep.Tom Anzelc, DFL-New Balsam Township, was the only board member to oppose the vote, arguing that the company had “used up essentially $40 million” in public funding and loans and, to this point, has “nothing to show for it.” In a separate vote, the board approved the IRRRB’s fiscal year 2014 budget, which will dedicate 63 percent of the agency’s spending toward development, up from 58 percent in fiscal year 2013.

MSOP TASK FORCE: The Minnesota Sex Offender Program Civil Commitment Advisory Task Force met last night for the first time since the end of an unproductive legislative session on that topic, according to KSTP. Two legislative members of the task force used Monday’s meeting to signal their disappointment with the Legislature, which effectively blanched at implementing the task force’s recommendations during this past session. Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, blamed “political theater” and a lack of leadership on the issue, while Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, added, “It seems like in the end, both sides got cold feet and… it’s just too bad.”

ROCHESTER DECIDES TO SHARE: The Rochester City Council voted last night to continue sharing local tax revenues with smaller surrounding communities, the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports. The council decision came despite repeated protestations from Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, who had mounted a one-woman campaign against the idea, using social media to tell Rochester residents to urge their council members to vote down the revenue sharing, which will reroute $5 million to 17 local governments in the area. It was Liebling who managed to pass language that would put the decision before the council again, a move that irked council member Ed Hruska — “Frankly, I’m disappointed this is even back in front of us,” he said — and had outraged Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, who originally crafted the distribution plan. With the council’s vote, half of the $5 million will be passed out in July, with the other half to follow in July 2014.

ROY WON’T RUN: Minneapolis City Council member Sandy Colvin Roy isn’t running for reelection this year, announcing her decision in a post on her campaign Facebook page. Roy is one of six council incumbents who either failed to regain the endorsement or lost it outright to a challenger. Roy points to her failure to win the DFL nod as the key in her decision, though she doesn’t doubt that she could still “run and win” this year. Roy’s decision should pave the way for a much simper task for her challenger, Andrew Johnson, who had led on every ballot during their convention.

HOUSE GOP HIRING: House Republicans are hiring partisan caucus staff, announcing openings for an unspecified number of legislative assistants positions. Qualified candidates should have good knowledge of PC operation and MS Word and, according to the posting, be comfortable with “long and irregular hours, especially during session.” Applications due June 21; more information, including salary, available here.

MNSURE COMMENT: MNsure, the state-run health insurance exchange, has published and is now taking citizen comments on the language for a pair of charter committees. The Health Industry Advisory Committee will consist of experts within the industry, including employees of insurance companies and health plans, while the Consumer and Small Employer Advisory Committee will be made up of consumers and small-business owners, including self-employed people. MNsure will take public comment through June 24; more details, including submission instructions, available here.

SWENSON’S ENGAGEMENT: Matt Swenson, newly promoted press secretary for Gov. Mark Dayton, announced he’d gotten engaged shortly before embarking on a vacation. Since his return, Swenson had a chance to provide a few more details: His fiancee is Becky Alm, a chemical engineer who works for the Metropolitan Council, and the two met last year on the rooftop patio at the Lofts at Farmers Market apartment complex, where both reside. They plan to get married in December of this year.

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