Both parties promise bipartisan work as power shifts at Capitol
by Shelby Capacio -
ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -
The 2013 Minnesota legislative session gets underway Tuesday, and it's expected to be a quiet start. But there are some big, loud issues ahead, including the budget for the next two years.
For the first time in a couple of decades, Democrats will control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office -- but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say bipartisan cooperation is expected.
The main focus is, of course, the budget -- but there are many other issues that will emerge over the next several months.
So far, lawmakers have promised to tackle so-called "kitchen table issues," including how to reform or revise the state's tax system. For now, leaders tell FOX 9 News everything is on the table, including sales, property and income taxes.
Yet, residents should expect to see some hot-button social issues taken up at the Capitol as well, including same-sex marriage and possibly gun control. Those issues could certainly make for a lively legislative session.
"When it comes down to what's best for the state, it's all about bipartisanship," said Republican Sen. Julie Rosen.
Both parties are already insisting they are ready to work together.
"Let's leave the campaign behind and transition into a period of governing," urged Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.
This new session is the first since 1990 that will see Democrats completely at the helm, but with a projected $1.1 billion budget deficit over the next two years, the pressure is on.
"My hope is to craft a budget that's honest with Minnesotans -- that doesn't rely on accounting gimmicks and borrowing," Bakk said. "That's a big task."
DFL leaders say they want to end the ugly cycle that seems to put Minnesota back in the red every biennium. They say that means lawmakers will need to cut spending while increasing revenue.
One idea that's expected to get a lot of attention is an income tax hike on the wealthiest one to two percent of Minnesotans, and it's likely that an increase will be included in Gov. Mark Dayton's budget package that will be submitted in the next two weeks.
"People of Minnesota understand that everyone has to participate in solving the budget deficit," said House Speaker Paul Thissen. "There will be cuts, no question -- but asking the richest Minnesotans to pay more should be part of the conversation."
Yet, the GOP still believes tax hikes on the rich could cripple the economy just as it's begun to come back.
"They are the job creators and they are very, very nervous and looking for an escape clause," Rosen said.
While tax and budget issues are expected to dominate the session, DFL leaders say there is still some room to debate social issues. Thissen told FOX 9 News he expects a same-sex marriage bill will be introduced in light of the results of November's constitutional amendment effort.
There has also been chatter about tightening the state's gun laws in the wake of high-profile mass shootings across the country.
"There are ways. We can look at specific things to make sure we have safe public places," Thissen said. "That's our top commitment."
Another issue that will crop up in the coming weeks is healthcare. The Legislature has to get into compliance with the Affordable Care Act -- and that means developing a new health insurance exchange where Minnesotans can go online to compare and buy health insurance plans.
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