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Local GOP senators give session a thumbs down

Now that the session is over, Republican leaders have been using the word "over" over and over again to describe the actions of the DFL-controlled Legislature.

As in over-taxing, over-spending and overreach.

That's the assessment of Minnesota Senate Minority Leader David Hann of Eden Prairie and the two Republican senators who represent Douglas County -- Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria and Torrey Westrom of Elbow Lake.

They stopped at the Echo Press last Thursday to offer their take on the session, which adjourned May 20.

Hann said the tax bill the DFLers approved will hit everyone, including people paying their energy bills, grocery stores paying a warehouse tax, tobacco users paying more for cigarettes and consumers buying items on the Internet.

Ingebrigtsen, who represents District 8, was also glum about the session. He was especially disappointed that the gay marriage ban was overturned and that the Legislature is allowing child care providers to unionize.

"That was nothing more than a huge payback to the union that helped them [DFLers] in the last election," Ingebrigtsen said. "It's a glaring example of overreach."

Westrom, who represents District 12, added that if providers are unionized, their membership fees will be deducted automatically from the state reimbursements they receive. He predicted that providers will raise their rates to make up for the loss.

Ingebrigtsen was unhappy with the budget plan. He said it includes $2.1 billion in a variety of new taxes and closes a $627 million budget deficit, for total state spending of $38.3 billion, an 8.1 percent increase in current spending.

When asked how they'd grade the legislative session, Hann said he'd give it an F. He said the DFL put more money into programs for the sake of spending money instead of focusing on growing the economy and putting people to work.

Westrom said the "F" could "almost stand" for fraud. He said DFLers campaigned for returning education funding that was shifted during the last session but they only added to the shift. The child care unionization bill was another example of the DFL's "chameleon" tendencies of saying one thing and doing another, Westrom said.

Hann was also disappointed that the Legislature repealed education reforms that were enacted at the previous session, such as new graduation standards and requiring teachers to take a test before getting their license.

When asked if anything positive came out of the session, Hann listed some accomplishments, including protecting natural resources, increased funding for public safety, small pay raises for judges and court staff, and approving a limited bonding bill that will make much-needed repairs to the Capitol building.

Westrom said the education bill, while flawed, did contain an increase of $158 per pupil for all schools. He added that nursing homes will also finally see an increase, 8.5 percent, in state funding.

Ingebrigtsen said one of the best accomplishments of the session was to stop gun control measures that would have infringed on citizens' Second Amendment rights.

Al Edenloff
Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  
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