Updated: 05/19/2014 9:00 PM
Created: 05/19/2014 8:47 PM WDIO.com
By: Alan Hoglund
Another legislative session is in the books for Minnesota lawmakers, and that means a shifting focus to the election this fall.
Democratic Governor Mark Dayton and all 134 members of the House of Representatives are up for re-election. That has Republicans pushing to take at least some control back at the Capitol.
Republican leadership toured the state Monday, making six stops. The fifth was at Monaco Air in Duluth. The 30-minute news conference focused mostly on spending choices made by DFL'ers over the last two years.
Republicans said tax increases and higher spending is jeopardizing job creation. In a news release, the MN House GOP said "according to Minnesota Management and Budget, under the Democrats' budget there have been three consecutive monthly updates where revenue has fallen short of forecasted amounts."
According to Senate Minority Leader David Hann, "our growth is pretty anemic. We need to have a stronger recovery before we start spending every dime we can get our hands on."
Responding in a later interview, Sen. Roger Reinert, DFL-Duluth, said "Minnesotans like a high quality of life. They have a high expectation and level of services, and those things cost money."
Lawmakers learned in February that the state had a $1.2 billion budget surplus. Hann has called it a sign that Minnesotans were taxed too much.
According to Reinert, "hindsight is 20/20. It's easy to make that argument now but one year ago we had to balance a budget...the economy is better; the revenue is exceeding projections. We took a responsible approach. Half went back to taxpayers. The other half went into the state's budget reserve."
Reinert described the session as "intense." He said lawmakers got a lot done in a shorter than normal time - around two months. He pointed to millions of dollars in bonding for the Northland, and the minimum wage increase, as some of the most important accomplishments this year.
Reinert said "honestly, I've never come home from a session and have as many people say 'thank you, you guys did a really good job.'"
Now that it's over, the focus turns to November. GOP leadership is optimistic. "If Democrats make it through this election cycle in complete control, which we don't think they will, katy bar the doors," House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt said.
While northeastern Minnesota is almost exclusively DFL, Republicans tell us they think they're making progress on the Iron Range.
MN Congressional Delegation and Lt. Gov. Meet at White House About Steel Imports
Minnesota's federal lawmakers met with officials at the White House on Friday, to press their case about the problem of steel imports.
Gogebic Taconite Withdraws Wisconsin Application
The state Department of Natural Resources says a company that was looking to open a huge iron mine in northern Wisconsin has officially withdrawn its plans. Gogebic Taconite was considering digging a 4½-mile long mine in the Penokee Hills just south of Lake Superior but announced last month it was closing its office in Hurley and future investment in the project wasn't feasible.
Girls-Only Shop Class Aims to Narrow Industry Gender Gaps
More women are now pursuing STEM fields, but there's still huge gender gaps in industries like manufacturing, machining and carpentry. a girls-only shop class at one Northland high school might be a way to change that.
Up, Up, and Away: Rare View of Duluth from Hot Air Balloon
Duluth residents were treated to a fairly rare sight over the city on Friday afternoon: two hot air balloons. The pair took off from Bayfront Festival Park around 4:15 p.m. as an effort to drum up excitement about this year's hot air balloon festival in September.
FEMA Awards Grant to Lake County to Mitigate Structure Fires
FEMA has awarded Lake County, Minnesota over $500,000 in a grant for the addition of metal roofing to 65 residential and commercial structures. Construction on some of the buildings can start as soon as the roofing season in northeastern Minnesota begins.