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Sieben, Kriesel differ on Dayton budget plan

Depending on which Cottage Grove-area lawmaker is asked, Gov. Mark Dayton's budget proposal is either a starting point for legislative debate over Minnesota's $6.2 billion budget deficit or a fundamentally flawed plan.

Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, said Dayton's plan to help balance the budget with over $4 billion in tax increases is "not the way to go." He said income tax increases would fall "basically on businesses" and that the increases could hit families in District 57A.

"We're going to have to work together to balance the budget, but obviously we need to be more fiscally responsible than this," Kriesel said Wednesday, after lawmakers had started to sift through the details of Dayton's plan. Kriesel said a family of two teachers could meet the threshold for increased income taxes under the governor's proposal.

Sen. Katie Sieben said it was too early to say whether she could support Dayton's overall budget package or even whether she could back the tax measures he included.

"It's a starting point" for the legislative process, said Sieben, DFL-Cottage Grove. "I don't know enough details about it to say whether I would vote for it if there was a bill before me today."

However, Sieben said she does support the concept of raising taxes on the wealthy to generate more state revenue.

"In theory, do I think that the highest earners in the state should pay a similar percentage of their income in state and local taxes as my constituents? Yes," she said.

Dayton's two-year budget plan relies on increased income taxes on what he said are the top 5 percent of earners, and other tax and surcharges totaling $4.2 billion. It includes a new fourth-tier income tax of 10.95 percent for a couple with $150,000 annual taxable income. Additionally, Dayton would impose a temporary 3 percent income tax surcharge on people earning over $500,000.

Sieben said she wants to learn more about a Dayton provision that would create a state property tax for homes valued at more than $1 million.

Sieben said the Dayton plan includes $2.4 billion in spending reductions.

"There are significant cuts," she said.

Dayton's budget proposal includes no reductions in state aid to cities and counties. Washington County, Newport and St. Paul Park all receive aid from the state. Sieben said past cuts to city and county aid in then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty's budgets caused local governments to in turn raise property taxes.

Kriesel said Pawlenty and past legislatures have been accused of "kicking the can down the road" by leaving difficult budget decisions to future policymakers.

"If we agree to this budget, we're doing the same exact thing," Kriesel said of the Dayton plan.

But Kriesel, a freshman in the GOP-controlled House, also said it is "going to be very tough" to reduce spending by $6.2 billion, if fellow Republicans offer such a proposal.

"I'm not saying I can't support it," he said. However, he added: "I really want to start looking at ways for new revenue without raising taxes."

Kriesel said he would support allowing expanded gambling, such as at a "racino," as a way of generating new revenue from the state. Sieben said she is "open to looking at" ways the state could generate revenue from expanded gaming, but added that she has not yet seen a specific gambling proposal.

See the upcoming print edition of the South Washington County Bulletin for more reaction from local legislators to the Dayton budget proposal.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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