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Legislators offer starkly different views of 2013 session

Rochester business leaders quizzed lawmakers about taxes, child care unionization and the new health insurance exchange on Wednesday during a chamber luncheon.

Republican lawmakers repeatedly hammered the $2.1 billion in tax increases passed by the DFL-led majorities, saying they threaten to undermine Minnesota's economic recovery. Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, said this approach is a sharp departure from that taken by Republicans in 2010 to solve the state's $5 billion budget gap by cutting government spending.

"We have embarked upon the same path that put us in a $5 billion deficit and we are growing government again," he said.

Democrats countered that those tax increases are paying for investments that are critical for the state's future such as all-day kindergarten and higher education. Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said this budget also solves the state's decade-long financial crises.

"We are going to hand off a budget to the next Legislature that is balanced, so that the next Legislature coming in is going to be able to bring their priorities and make their decisions and not immediately have to manage a crisis," he said.


Joining Hann and Bakk at the luncheon sponsored by the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce were Republican Reps. Mike Benson of Rochester and Duane Quam of Byron and Sen. Carla Nelson of Rochester and DFL Rep. Tina Liebling. Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, and Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, were absent because they were part of a legislative delegation that traveled to Germany.

The luncheon at the Rochester Golf and Country Club began with chamber President John Wade thanking lawmakers and local leaders for their work to pass Mayo Clinic's Destination Medical Center initiative. The tone of the luncheon soon changed after audience members submitted critical written questions for lawmakers. One of those questions centered on a bill allowing in-home child care workers to unionize.

Liebling, who voted against the bill, said she had several concerns with the proposal. But she said there has been a lot of misinformation being circulated by opponents of the measure. Chief among them is a claim the bill forces child care providers to unionize when it simply allows for a vote.

"Nobody is being forced to unionize. That's just political speak," she said.

Nelson said the bill opens the door to other business owners being unionized.

She added,"It is a slippery slope to assume just because a business accepts a business subsidy, whether it be for medical rides or heating assistance or whatever they become an employee of the state."

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