Political Notebook: War of words comes before budget
ST. PAUL -- The tweets flew fast and furious Thursday afternoon as Minnesota legislators debated what Republicans said was Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton's tax-increase plan.
Democrats accused Republicans of playing games with the budget, and skipping important committee meetings to debate a plan Dayton has yet to formally release. Republicans, on the other hand, took great joy in tweeting that only one Democrat - Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm -- voted for that they presented as Dayton's proposal.
Right after the Senate vote, and again after the House finished, GOP tweets proclaimed that the Dayton tax increase basically had no support. It is a refrain Minnesotans can expect to hear time and again this spring as Republicans say their budget plan is a better way.
Republicans complain that Dayton has not given lawmakers specific bills for his budget and taxing plans. But, Democrats counter, it was only last Monday that the state's revenue figures were updated, so Dayton needs time to tweak his Feb. 15 budget plan.
Democrats fired back at Republicans, asking them about their budget, which will begin to take shape in the next few days.
"We are moving forward in the most aggressive fashion," Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said as he introduced the Dayton tax proposal, before voting against it.
While Democrats complain that they have not seen a Republican budget plan, they admit that when they were in charge they did not have budgets ready in early March either.
Republican leaders announce soon how much can be spent in each budget area (human services, judiciary, agriculture, etc.). Then committees decide specifically what gets funded, and cut, in light of a $5 billion deficit. That must be done by March 25.
Next up, the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee consider the bills. After that, conference committees will work out differences between the two chambers and send spending bills to Dayton. There is no deadline for when budget bills land on Dayton's desk and it is not clear how much say he will have before he sees the bills.
Minnesota could have the first 2012 presidential caucus, eclipsing its neighbor to the south.
Iowa fights for the first caucus, which draws attention from nearly every serious presidential candidate. But Minnesota law has set caucuses for Feb. 5, 2012, before Iowa plans its every-four-year extravaganza.
Minnesota's precinct caucus include only a straw poll for president, the Politico Web site reports, so state Republicans do not think it is the same as the Iowa caucus meetings that elect delegates committed to candidates.
National Republican rules forbid any primary or caucus to elect presidential delegates before the first Tuesday in March, other than contests in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Minnesota law required Democrats and Republicans to agree by last Tuesday if they wanted to change the date; there was no action.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk riled Minnesota's top senator when he said Republicans "don't have a deep enough bench" to man budget negotiations.
Bakk, DFL-Cook, said that there are so many rookie Republicans that experienced hands to work out a final budget are in short supply.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, shot back: "We are a citizen Legislature" and citizens are the best negotiators on how to spend tax money.
She called the Bakk comment "an Oberstar moment," apparently a reference to former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, a Democrat who Republicans criticize for depending too much on government.
Klobuchar vs. carp
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and five others have introduced a bill to help combat the spread of Asian carp.
The Minnesota Democrat's bill deals with the invasive species that has created problems in the lower Mississippi and Missouri rivers.
"Minnesotans take great pride in our lakes and rivers, and there's no place for Asian carp in any of them," Klobuchar said. "This invasive species will not only ruin the habitat of our native fish populations, but it also will have a harmful effect on commercial and recreational fishing, tourism and boating."
The Stop Asian Carp Act would order the Army Corps of Engineers to look into several ways to keep the carp out of northern waters, including the Great Lakes.
Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, withdrew her complaint against a Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities lobbyist after he apologized for a poor choice of words.
Koch had complained to the Minnesota Government Relations Council, a group of lobbyists, that J.D. Burton appeared to ask city officials to lie about their need for state payments to their communities. Burton had sent an e-mail to city officials asking them to seek continued Local Government Aid even if they planned for cuts in state payments.
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has been named to the Midwestern Governors' Association executive committee.
The groups recently met while governors attended the National Governors' Association meeting in Washington, D.C.