Gazelka, majority leader: 'We got a lot done'
Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, disagrees with those who labeled the recently concluded legislative session as a ‘do-nothing Legislature.” He would term it a “we got a lot done Legislature.”
Backing him up in that assertion at a Monday news conference at the Brainerd Public Library was Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, who pointed out that in the last biennium the state went from projections of a $6.2 billion deficit to a $1.2 billion surplus.
“Minnesota is a better place today than it was two years ago (under DFL majorities),” Senjem said.
The Rochester Republican, who flew to Brainerd on Monday, said progress has been made with regulatory reform, alternative licensing for teachers and new jobs have been established during that time. He said these were all indications Minnesota was heading in the right direction.
“Lastly, we did this all without tax increases,” Senjem said.
He termed Gov. Mark Dayton’s 27 vetoes as a painful part of the session, particularly the tax bill which would have set a standard formula for Local Government Aid, tax-incremental financing for a project at the Mall of America and low-interest loans for homes.
Gazelka pointed to two bills he authored as accomplishments. One provided for fishing licenses to continue to be sold in the event of another government shutdown and the other establishing a wolf hunting season.
“We’re asking government to ... live within their means,” he said. “We want to be business-friendly.”
Gazelka said the Legislature has been trying to find a solution that would result in a new stadium for 10 years and while he favored a user-fee solution, in the end the goal was accomplished. The first-term senator said that in less than a year the Legislature has paid more than $300 million back to schools from a previous budget shift which saw the state delay payments. The shifting in funds, Gazelka said, cost the Brainerd School District $50,000 but an increase in the per-pupil funding netted the district an additional $400,000. Gazelka said the first shift of school funds took place in 1983 under Democratic majorities and it took them 15 years to pay it back.
Senjem said he liked the looks of the new redistricting lines and he expected Republicans maintain their majority in the Senate if they work hard this campaign season.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” he said.
Charlie Makidon of Pine River attended the news conference and expressed his concern that money for the completion of a veterans home addition in Minneapolis was taken out of the bonding bill at the last minute.
Senjem said the funding was in the initial Senate bonding bill and that he expected the money would be approved next year.
Former Sen. Carrie Ruud of Breezy Point, who is the Republican Party’s endorsed candidate for Senate District 10, also attended the news conference.