House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt thinks a recent economic report prepared by the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) was too partisan for the agency, which is supposed to be politically neutral.
On Monday, Daudt sent a letter to Gov. Mark Dayton criticizing the presentation, and asking that DEED not use it again.
The information in question was initially shown during a meeting of the Legislative Commission on Planning and Fiscal Policy (LCPFP), a bicameral panel that includes House and Senate leadership. The commission was set to receive an economic update from DEED government relations director Kim Babine during its Wednesday, Nov. 20 meeting, but Republican members interrupted the presentation soon after it had begun.
Several GOP legislators, including Daudt and Senate Minority Leader David Hann, said the PowerPoint slide was overly politicized, pointing out its reference to how past Legislatures had closed budget gaps using “games and gimmicks,” while the 2013 budget was balanced. Also taking issue with the tone of the document was Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson.
“It looks a whole lot more like a campaign lit piece than it does a document coming out of a state agency,” Newman said at the time.
During the same hearing, House Speaker Paul Thissen and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk defended the use of the language, saying governors and legislators of both parties were responsible for passing unbalanced budgets in the past.
Babine eventually apologized for some of the language used in the document, and cut her presentation short.
In his letter to Dayton, Daudt said the DEED presentation could be considered using state employees to produce political campaign material, which would be in violation of state statute.
“Should your agency continue using this presentation in an official capacity, my caucus will take any action necessary to protect the hardworking taxpayers of Minnesota from this impermissible use of their tax dollars,” Daudt warns in his letter.
Daudt goes on to write that the DEED document incorrectly explained that the current biennial budget passed by Democratic majorities had solved the state’s $6 billion budget, when instead, Daudt writes, credit should be given to the previous budget cycle “passed by a GOP Legislature which raised no state taxes.”
Daudt’s letter can be read in its entirety here.
In a statement released Tuesday morning, Dayton’s deputy chief of staff, Bob Hume, rejected Daudt’s claim that the agency had been used for political purposes.
“The accusation that there was a violation of statute in Rep. Daudt’s letter is ridiculous,” Hume said. “The governor would be happy to sit with Representative Daudt, or the entire GOP caucus, and enumerate the games and gimmicks that have been in past budgets. The bottom line is that Rep. Daudt doesn’t like the fact that the economy is improving because it doesn’t suit his political needs. We have good news to tell, and that’s what we’ve been doing.”