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Minnesota speaker Daudt visits Brainerd: Says public can still view floor sessions of Legislature in 2016

Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives Kurt Daudt visited the Brainerd lakes area on Tuesday, talking about his priorities of tax breaks and transportation funding for the 2016 legislative session.

Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives Kurt Daudt (right) talks with Matt Kilian, president of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa to a gathering of Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday at the Teehive garment manufacturing facility in Baxter. Heintzeman invited Daudt to tour local businesses and hear their concerns. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)
Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives Kurt Daudt (right) talks with Matt Kilian, president of the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa to a gathering of Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday at the Teehive garment manufacturing facility in Baxter. Heintzeman invited Daudt to tour local businesses and hear their concerns. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)
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Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives Kurt Daudt visited the Brainerd lakes area on Tuesday, talking about his priorities of tax breaks and transportation funding for the 2016 legislative session.

The tour culminated in a gathering of Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce members at the Teehive garment manufacturing facility in Baxter. Daudt, a Republican from Crown, said the business regulatory climate in Minnesota was not competitive with other states, and he was in favor of hacking at state property and estate taxes to make conditions more favorable.

During a press conference with reporters afterward, Daudt said he had heard from employers on his Brainerd tour that workforce procurement issues and health care costs were vexing.

"MNsure, our state exchange, is where we're seeing a lot of those huge increases in costs," he said. "Potentially we need to look at going on the federal exchange so we don't have those duplicative costs for the administrative portion of that health coverage."

Scrapping MNsure would save Minnesotans money, Daudt said.

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"MNsure really has no rate advantage now over the federal exchange, and frankly, by putting our folks in Minnesota into the federal exchange, they're going to get the same coverage that they have now-potentially even better," he said.

Daudt appeared optimistic the Legislature could finally get a transportation bill through, although he said there were still sticking points left.

One transportation issue that remained "unanswered" was mass transit in the metro, Daudt said.

"Some of the members in Minneapolis and St. Paul really want to see some new revenue go into the light rail, different modes of transportation in the metro area," he said. "To try to sneak money through for trains in the metro area, we don't think that's a very effective way to spend our dollars."

He also said members of the public and reporters would still have access to the House chambers during the huge Capitol restoration project, although the gallery itself will be closed.

"The gallery will not be open, but we will make arrangements to have the alcoves in the back available to the public and to the press," he said. "Hopefully the public will not see any difference. We still will have television coverage in the same way that we have, and we do want to make every arrangement to make sure that the public that wants to come and actually sit in the chamber with us, has the ability to do that."

Daudt also said the House would put up additional TV monitors both outside the chamber in the rotunda area and in the State Office Building.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, had previously raised concerns about lack of transparency and openness to the public during the restoration process.

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The stop at the Teehive was one of many stops on Daudt's schedule that day. He also was scheduled to visit Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, Forest View Middle School in Baxter, and the Hungry Loon restaurant in Pequot Lakes.

During the Grand View stop, Daudt met with resort operators and owners, who told them of their struggles with Minnesota's minimum wage, and their difficulty finding people to come work for them.

Daudt said he would also attend a fundraiser later that evening.

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser .

Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives Kurt Daudt (center) talks to a gathering of Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday at the Teehive garment manufacturing facility in Baxter. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)
Speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives Kurt Daudt (center) talks to a gathering of Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce members Tuesday at the Teehive garment manufacturing facility in Baxter. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)

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