‘We can do better’
LUVERNE — Rep. Kurt Daudt said he is glad to be done with the 2014 legislative session. “This kind of capped off the first year and a half, really, of single-party control in Minnesota,” said the House Republican Leader. “From our perspective, that really didn’t serve Minnesotans very well. This session, when taken in whole the last two years, Minnesota has seen one of the largest tax increases in state history, by far the largest spending increases in state history and we’ve seen some other things that are concerning.”
Daudt and other state Republican leaders made a stop in Luverne during a statewide tour Monday. Both House and Senate leaders spoke, conveying the message that the Democratic-controlled government did not serve the people of Minnesota.
“When we think about this fall and the election for the house and the governor’s race, we are very optimistic that Republicans will regain the majority in the house, because we can do better,” said Sen. David Hann, the Senate Republican Leader.
“We can solve some of these problems,” Hann continued. “We trust the people of Minnesota to be able to make decisions. That’s one thing about the Democrats — they demonstrated they just don’t trust ordinary people to make good decisions about their lives. From day care to health care, they always thought they had better ideas in St. Paul or Washington and we should all get in step and do what they tell us to do.”
Stopping in Luverne — at the heart of the Lewis & Clark Regional Water System — the project was a topic of discussion. It seemed to be the final piece of the puzzle that allowed both the bonding and tax bills to be passed, allowing this year’s session to close.
“We’re also very proud of the fact that we were able to basically fully fund the Lewis & Clark project,” Daudt said. “The first $22 million of that was in the cash bill that was passed we hope the governor will be signing. The remainder was in the tax bill with some language that will allow the local units of government down here to borrow the money and get reimbursed for almost all of it from the state of Minnesota.”
It had been reported that the Lewis & Clark project was a very hot topic in the legislature.
“We made it very clear from the start that unless they included that Lewis & Clark project in the bonding bill, we were not going to support a bonding bill,” Hann said. “A bonding bill is one of those unique things that requires a supermajority to pass. They needed Republican votes to do it. That gives a little opportunity to negotiate.”
Daudt said the project was seen as more important than others in the bonding bill.
“When you’re looking at the scale of projects in the bonding bill, when you’re talking about drinking water for people, it’s something that rises to a new level,” he said. “Obviously it was a big priority for us, for Republicans. Even after the governor’s state of the state (address), the Democrats had pulled funding for the Lewis & Clark project out of their proposal on the house side.”
As part of the final deal that allowed the entire project to be funded in Minnesota, there will be some local buy-in. The state will pick up 85 percent of the cost, the leaders said, but the local entities will need to supply the rest. Future federal funding could be used for the local share. By figuring out funding for all three phases, the pipeline will be completed all the way through to Worthington.
“It was kind of interesting the way it came together at the end,” Daudt said. “We were kind of pushing for full funding within the bonding bill and maybe would have settled for at least getting us through Phase 2. Although the priority for us was we wanted some certainty and we wanted the folks down here to have some certainty that this project had a future and that it wasn’t just funded through Phase 1 and the rest was up in the air. ... It gives everybody a little skin in the game. It sounded like the local folks were OK with that and realized ... it was a good way to fund the project.”
Another issue discussed during the short meeting was medical marijuana. However, with limited distribution centers, the Republican leaders said they were concerned about access for those who need it.
“That’s going to be an issue — access for all Minnesotans,” said Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, Senate Republican Assistant Leader. “You are going to have potentially eight different distribution centers, depending on the population. If you’re in a denser populated area, you’re probably going to have more. That’s going to be an issue. You may end up running toward the metro to get your medical marijuana, should you need that.”
Rep. Jenifer Loon, House Republican Deputy Leader, Rep. Tim Sanders, House Republican Whip and Rep. Mark Anderson were also in attendance Monday, along with District 22 Sen. Bill Weber and 22A Rep. Joe Schomacker.
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