by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, has called for an investigation of the Dayton Administration regarding the source of electronic pull-tab revenue estimates calculated into the state’s portion of financing the Vikings stadium – estimates shown to be, thus far, sharply off.
Additionally, Nienow intends to introduce legislation to delay the selling of bonds to fund construction of the stadium until the revenue shortfall is reconciled.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton on Tuesday, April 2, suggested that if Nienow wanted to “shoot his mouth off,” that was his business. Dayton asked what there was to investigate.
He, like everyone else at the Capitol, used the revenue estimates supplied by state officials in making his decisions, Dayton said.
But Nienow, a frequent visitor to the Capitol Press Room, said “clearly” the revenue estimates were woefully inaccurate. Although expressing no surprise that Dayton pushed back regarding his call for an investigation, Nienow was “a little surprised with the attitude.”
The shortfall in electronic pull-tab revenues and the question of stadium bonding came up Friday, April 5, at the weekly appearance of legislative leaders.
House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said he wasn’t “in a place of panicking” over the pull-tab shortfall and saw no reason to postpone stadium bonding. Still, Thissen said he did not believe the Minnesota Lottery has the legislative authority to try different forms of gaming to find extra stadium funding than detailed in the stadium bill.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, argued even if the lottery established other games, the revenue would not automatically flow towards the stadium.
Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, characterized the electronic pull-tab proposal a “colossal failure.” There needs to be a solution, he said.
“Is Zygi Wilf the next charitable (gaming) cause in the state?” Thompson quipped.
Dayton, House bonding bills expected out next week
House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, on Friday, April 5, said that House Capital Investment Committee Chairwoman Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, intends to release her bonding bill next week.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the Senate would be moving later with its bonding bill. Personally, the project Bakk wants to see done in a bonding bill is State Capitol renovation. Take advantage of having a governor who also wants to bond to upgrade the State Capitol, he said.
“I think the Capitol is something we do agree on,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said.
Daudt went on to say that he didn’t like to see politics played with the bonding bill, one of the most politically hair-triggered pieces of legislation that comes before the Legislature.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton is expected to present his $750 million bonding bill early next week.
Dream Act legislation advances
The nicknamed Dream Act higher education legislation passed a Senate committee on Tuesday, April 2. Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, saw her bill offering in-state tuition rates and financial aid options to legally undocumented students pass the Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on a voice vote.
Pappas, who has been carrying the bill for years, said Minnesota would be the 15th state to adopt the Dream Act, should the bill pass.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said the legislation made sense.
Under the bill, legally undocumented students would qualify for in-state tuition rates if the student attended high school in Minnesota three or more years, graduated from a Minnesota high school or obtained an equivalent of a high school diploma, and provided evidence that they’re attempting to legalize their immigration status.
In the Senate committee, bill advocates wore signs saying “I am equal.”
Complaints heard from advocates were that it takes longer and is so much harder for undocumented students to obtain college degrees because they have higher tuition rates.
According to higher education officials, about 750 students a year would be attending state colleges or universities under the auspices of the bill. In terms of student grants, it’s estimated allowing legally undocumented students to apply for grants would take up about $540,000 a year.
“Fourteen other states have moved ahead,” Pappas said of passing the Dream Act.
The House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee this week took testimony on Dream Act legislation carried by Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, but took no votes.
Pappas’ bill was sent to the Senate Finance Committee, though Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee Chairwoman Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, reserved the right to pull the bill back into her committee.
Senate transportation finance bill presented
The Senate Transportation and Public Safety Committee on Friday, April 5, took testimony on a $2.4 billion transportation finance bill.
Committee Chairman Scott Dibble’s “vision bill” seeks to bond about $800 million for transportation and contains a variety of transportation tax increases. These include a gas tax increase, a 5 percent vehicle registration late payment penalty, a sales tax expansion to auto repair and maintenance services, local option wheelage tax, other revenue raisers.
“We’re very, very supportive of increasing the gas tax,” Margaret Donahoe, Minnesota Transportation Alliance spokeswoman said.
But Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton indicated this week that he would not bring out a transportation initiative this session.
No votes were taken on Dibble’s bill.
Tim Budig is at [email protected]