“Intensely Partisan” Cuts Start MN Legislative Session

Minnesota Republicans have found a way to reduce the Senate’s deficit. They’re going to make the Democrats pay for it.

Republicans voted to reduce DFL staff at the Senate by more than $400,000 — meaning the DFL will have to lay off 12 to 14 people of its 43 person staff. Republicans will not reduce their staff of 73 people at all. Republicans had promised to reduce Senate costs as part of last year’s budget agreement.

The Senate may have to reduce its costs by $2 Million to balance its budget. The cuts today would take effect after the end of the current session in May, but will result in the state paying out about $250 thousand in unemployment benefits says Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk. “That’s only $194 thousand in real savings” Senator Bakk told The UpTake in an exclusive interview.

“I think it is terribly wrong, the cuts should have been spread equally between the two caucuses,” said Senator Bakk “I made a motion to do that, and not one Republican voted for that.”

Senator Bakk says this does not bode well for cooperation between the two parties this legislative session.

” But clearly the tone they’re setting with their very first action this session is intensely partisan. And there’s no precedent for it. Cuts previously have been spread proportionally between the Democrats and the Republicans. And this takes all of the salary reductions out of the Democrats partisan staff and none out of the Republicans.”

The Secretary of the Senate’s office which now acts as the Senate’s Human Resources department was not able to provide any information that showed if cuts have ever been made this way in the past. The UpTake has called The Senate Majority Leader’s office to ask if this is “unprecedented” as Senator Bakk says, however our call has not yet been returned.

Doing the math. 2012 Republicans get a bigger staff edge with a smaller majority than 2010 DFL majority had.

Republicans hold 37 of Minnesota’s 67 Senate seats. That’s about 55% of the seats. But they get about 64% of the partisan staff budget or a 9% “leadership bonus” After the cuts they will have about 69% of the partisan staff budget or a 14% “leadership bonus”

By comparison, in 2010 when Democrats held the majority with 46 of the 67 seats. That’s about 69% of the seats. In 2010 they got about 74% of the partisan staff budget, or a 5% leadership “bonus”.

Video Highlights of Senate Rules Committee:

Transcript of interview with Senator Tom Bakk
Mike McIntee: Senator Bakk, tell me what happened today and why you think it was disproportionally falling on the DFL?

Senator Tom Bakk:
Well, the Republicans brought a proposal to the Senate rules committee that made 444 thousand dollars of staffing reductions between the end of session and the first of January next year. And every dollar of savings in the staff reduction area comes out of the minority caucus, out of the Democrats.

So the secretary of the Senate indicated that we would, the Democrats, would have to lay off 12 to 14 of our staff. And the Republicans are laying off zero.

I think it is terribly wrong, the cuts should have been spread equally between the two caucuses. I made a motion to do that, and not one Republican voted for that.

McIntee: What do you think this says about cooperation between the parties this year?

Bakk: Well, I had hoped that under Senator Senjem, he’d be able to set a tone of cooperation and bipartisanship. But clearly the tone they’re setting with their very first action this session is intensely partisan. And there’s no precedent for it. Cuts previously have been spread proportionally between the Democrats and the Republicans. And this takes all of the salary reductions out of the Democrats partisan staff and none out of the Republicans.

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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