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Associated Press, Published May 26 2013

Minnesota lawmakers taking their records to voters

ST. PAUL — Minnesota's latest legislative session may be over, but lawmakers are taking no time to rest.

Legislators of both parties already have begun touring the state, touting their list of achievements and raising funds for the next election campaign, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

The legislative session ended with a hefty tax hike, more money for education, legalization of same-sex marriage and an expansion of union power. The outcome of those actions is still uncertain, but the aftermath already is reshaping the political debate for the 2014 campaign.

Gov. Mark Dayton and other Democrats are telling residents they kept their promise to balance the budget fairly. Republicans are countering that their policies are still better for Minnesota.

The House and governorship will be on next year's ballot but not the state Senate, whose members were elected to four-year terms in 2012. Lawmakers were limited from raising money during the session, but now that's it's over they immediately embarked on a string of fundraisers.

Dayton said Democrats have reason to be proud of their accomplishments. The party increased aid for education and provided property-tax relief for Minnesota homeowner and renters. They also say they balanced the budget in a way that sets up the state for a new era of fiscal stability.

“We told the people of Minnesota . that we were going to raise taxes progressively. And we did,” Dayton said. “We were going to balance the budget honestly, fairly, no gimmicks and shifts, etc. And we have.”

But Republicans, who launched their own tour of the state, said the Democrats who control the Legislature and governor's office overplayed their hand during the last session. The GOP says Democrats needlessly socked Minnesotans with $2.1 billion in tax hikes and threw money at programs without bothering to examine how to make them more efficient.

“There was no balance and there was no compromise this year, and we feel our policies are better for Minnesota,” said House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. “That's the case that we are going take to Minnesotans, and we are not going to let up for one minute between now and (2014) Election Day.”

The battle already is shaping up in northern Minnesota, where Democratic state Rep. Joe Radinovich of Crosby eked out a narrow victory in a socially conservative district. When Radinovich got to St. Paul, he angered some of his constituents when he voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

“I don't think when you get into the Capitol you should be thinking about re-election. You should be thinking about doing the right thing,” said Radinovich, who is already reaching out to residents in his district. “I think the people of Minnesota will reward people who do the right thing.”

But Radinovich's 2012 opponent, Dale Lueck, said residents are furious and feel betrayed.

“When you go against that level of sentiment in your district, it's the same as someone running up Mount Everest without oxygen,” Lueck said. “That looks more like political suicide than anything I have seen.”

Lueck said he hasn't decided whether to run again, but that events of the last session have him considering it.