Last week, Gov. Mark Dayton told Minnesota legislators to roll up their sleeves and “work together to build a state that works” during his State of the State address.
The governor defended the work of his administration over the last two years, saying great progress had been made in restoring fiscal responsibility and operational integrity.
He also made the case for his vision of the future, discussing the need for a healthy environment and affirming his support for same-sex marriage.
“I’m surprised Governor Dayton took credit for the budget that turned a $6.2 billion deficit into a $2.5 billion surplus,” Rep. Kathy Lohmer said. “Republicans passed that budget and Governor Dayton previously stated that he felt forced into signing it.”
And while taking credit for the budget, Lohmer said she found it “curious” that the governor “never brought up his sales tax expansion or the business-to-business tax” in his address.
“I don’t think Governor Dayton’s approach is right for our state,” Lohmer said. “What is balanced about offering only $1 in cuts to $16 in tax increases? Under that proposal, Minnesota will become the land of 10,000 taxes. It’s a budget for a better Wisconsin.”
Sen. Karin Housley doubled-down on Lohmer’s comments.
"Our unemployment rate is decreasing, and our economy is improving because we’ve prioritized spending and not asked taxpayers to pay more,” Housley said. “Although it's improving, our economy is still fragile. Now is not the time to raise taxes and grow government. Instead, we should work to grow our economy.”
Dayton is asking every Minnesotan to pay more to grow government, she said. Everyone will pay more for clothes, car repairs, haircuts and other goods and services.
Stillwater area representatives all said they believe the budget, state economy, job creation and healthcare need to be the priorities this session, not “divisive social issues.”
Divisive gun hearings dominated the House Public Safety Committee’s agenda last week, and “most Minnesotans believe our priorities should be directed elsewhere,” Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) said. “I see this as a distraction from issues like the health insurance exchange and the budget proposal—both topics Governor Dayton and DFL leaders haven't had much support on.”
Lohmer, who sits on that committee, agreed, and said she is also concerned that DFL leadership is not listening to citizens who are bringing all sides of the argument to the table.
“I am a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment, but it was important for me to listen to opposing viewpoints,” Lohmer said; noting that DFL members of the committee stood up and left when Second Amendment supporters had their turn to testify.
“It was very concerning to me that Alice Hausman (DFL-Roseville) who was chief author of one of the most contentious gun control bills was not even present to testify for her bill,” Lohmer said. “She had a lobbyist testify in her place."
“In all of the committee hearings I’ve been a part of for over two years now,” she continued, “I have never seen that happen before.”
The constitution is very clear in its protection of rights to bear arms, Dettmer said. It doesn't specify a right to hunt or a right to hold individual weapons, just a right to bear arms.
“We have plenty of laws on the books in Minnesota and new regulations are unnecessary,” Dettmer said. “I also believe schools should govern themselves when it comes to school safety precautions.”
Same-sex marriage is another contentious issue that dominated the political discussion last year and “is now distracting us from our main obligations this year,” Dettmer said.
Dettmer supports protecting the traditional definition of marriage, and said he has always been up front with his constituents about it.
“Gay marriage is certainly an issue that divides Minnesota,” Housley said. “I think we should focus first on our state’s budget, growing the economy and creating jobs.”
Lohmer, too, said she has been clear that she supports traditional marriage.
“While the marriage amendment did not pass,” Lohmer said, “I do not believe that vote represented an endorsement of gay marriage.”