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Don Davis and Danielle Killey, Published May 19 2013

Minnesota legislative notebook: No pay increases for Minnesota lawmakers this year

ST. PAUL – The House and Senate were ready late Sunday to approve a compromise bill giving statewide officials and the governor’s commissioners pay raises, but the bill contains no legislator raises.

The Legislature also was to take up a proposed constitutional amendment that the House already passed to establish a council to set legislative pay.

The governor’s commissioners could receive raises. However, no money was included for higher pay, so any raises would have to come out of agency budgets.

Commissioners could be paid 133 percent of the governor’s salary, while current law limits pay to 95 percent.

The governor and other statewide officials would receive 3 percent pay increases each of the next two years.

The measure adds a surcharge of 50 cents per six months for each vehicle insured. It is to be used for vehicle theft prevention programs.

Transportation financed

The Minnesota House approved a transportation budget 77-53 Sunday, followed by the Senate 44-23 vote, but its House author said more money is needed.

Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, has said the bill is essentially a “lights-on” budget, funding existing programs with little new money.

“I think in many ways we’re addressing symptoms, not causes,” he said.

The $5.2 billion budget funds road and bridge work, transit such as buses and rail and other transportation programs.

The bill does not include a gasoline tax increase, previously discussed this year. Gov. Mark Dayton has said he will not support it.

The bill allows all counties to impose a wheelage tax of $10 per vehicle and a local option sales tax of up to a half-cent to fund transit and roads. Only Twin Cities metro area counties have that option now.

Hornstein said the state faces major concerns and needs to invest more money in transportation and infrastructure projects in coming years.

“Everybody wants their local projects funded, yet people are reluctant to vote for the revenue to pay for them,” he said. “And that’s a problem.”

Pension plan OK’d

Public pension and other retirement plans may provide lower returns and cost more after years of too little money being invested in them.

A bill to allow such actions awaits Gov. Mark Dayton’s signature.

The measure discourages early retirement, which would draw more money from retirement plans. State money would be used to bolster the public plans.

The bill “is responsible, promotes solvency and stability, leads us toward keeping our promises,” Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, said.

A state patrol pension is 27 percent short of needed state funds, the House heard when Murphy’s bill was debated. A police and fire pension fund is 22 percent short.

Teacher retirement funds in Duluth and St. Paul would receive $13 million this year and again next year under the bill.

‘Do not confirm’

Gov. Mark Dayton on Sunday asked the Senate to do something very rare: not confirm a judge he appointed.

The governor wrote to Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, Sunday and asked that he pull his request to confirm George Perez to continue as a tax court judge. Last week, the Board of Judicial Standards found Perez violated judges’ code of conduct.

“The board made numerous findings of fact leading to the imposition of several serious sanctions ...” Dayton wrote. “Had I known about the board’s findings, I would not have reappointed him to another term in the tax court.”

Skoe’s Senate Taxes Committee went along and recommended Perez not be confirmed.

Radinovich help

State Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, has written to gay marriage supporters urging them to help Rep. Joe Radinovich, DFL-Crosby,

Dibble, openly gay and a main same-sex marriage supporter, said Radinovich faces problems in his district because he voted in favor of gay marriage, which became the law Tuesday.

“There are forces trying to repeal that historic legislation and recall legislators who voted ‘yes,’ ” Dibble wrote. “My colleague, Rep. Joe Radinovich from Crosby in the heart of central Minnesota, took a courageous stand for all Minnesotans when he voted in favor of the freedom to marry. Now, a mean-spirited recall effort is underway to unseat him during this, his first legislative session, because of one vote, rooted in deeply held values and principles.”

The MN United Political Action Committee is accepting contributions to help lawmakers like Radinovich, and Dibble asked supporters to donate.

Radinovich won last November by 323 votes.