“Invest in Minnesota,” hundreds tell lawmakers

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Hundreds of Minnesotans crammed the state capitol Monday to call on lawmakers to raise revenue to fund critical public services. They applauded Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s call to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a new tax bill.

On Friday, House and Senate DFLers passed a $1 billion tax bill that would have raised taxes on the wealthy, on alcohol and on credit companies that charged excessive rates. Pawlenty, a Republican, vetoed the bill within hours.

“The governor vetoed hope for our schools. He vetoed hope for our hospitals. He vetoed hope for our nursing homes and long-term care facilities,” Anderson Kelliher told the crowd. “We know what we need to do. We need to override!” Her remarks were followed by loud cheers and a chant of “Override, override.”

No veto override attempt planned yet
by Staff, Session Daily

House DFLers have no plans yet to try for an override the governor’s veto of the tax bill, HF885, which was passed off the House and Senate floors Friday and got a quick red mark from the governor.

“By the end of the week, if there is not an agreement, we should definitely provide choices for the legislators; the Legislature can take it upon ourselves to make that choice,” House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm) said in a press briefing.

All major spending bills should be wrapped up by the end of today or tomorrow, with the state’s largest General Fund spending category — education — to have its budget target today, he said.

If the bills are vetoed, Sertich said the Legislature is prepared to send another round, with “severe cuts.”

He has no indication that the governor plans to veto the omnibus health and human services finance bill, which is expected to receive House and Senate approval Monday, or the education bill, which Sertich termed “a good compromise.”

Sertich is confident that session can still end on time. He said a special session wouldn’t mean the session is a failure, but more a sign of an inability to compromise, “and Minnesotans can decide who is to blame.”

Monday’s demonstration was organized by labor, faith, community and other groups as part of the “Invest in Minnesota” campaign. The organizations are seeking a fair way to raise more state revenue to fund schools, health care and other public services.

The state faces a projected two-year budget shortfall of nearly $5 billion. Pawlenty has said he opposes any tax increases to address the deficit.

“Minnesota still ranks high in a number of areas, and many Minnesotans are doing well,” the groups say on the Invest in Minnesota website. “But we’re slipping. Confronted with budget deficits starting in 2002, the Legislature enacted considerable cuts in funding, causing Minnesota to lose ground compared to other states.”

Currently, Minnesota’s economy is performing more poorly than the national average and spending in areas such as higher education and housing has dropped significantly, the groups said.

At the rally, emergency medical technicians and school employees mingled with office workers and nurses. They held up signs reading “Make taxes fair” and chanted, “We’re ready to invest.”

They filled out postcards addressed to Pawlenty, urging “adequate funding to maintain essential services.” After the event, people fanned out across the Capitol to meet with lawmakers.

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