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Woodbury residents told to expect 'rough ending' at Legislature

Democratic Rep. Nora Slawik, of Maplewood, speaks Sunday to about 50 people during a legislative update at R.H. Stafford Library. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

Rep. Mindy Greiling asked a roomful of people attending a legislative update at R.H. Stafford Library for a show of hands: Should lawmakers finish this session on time no matter what, or should they stand behind their convictions in the face of a government shutdown?

Nearly every hand in the room shot up in support of fighting on.

Woodbury resident Russ Nynas was among those calling on Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and DFL lawmakers to back their convictions.

"(Dayton's) got to have the guts and the Democrats have got to have the guts to stand with him," Nynas said.

He was among about 50 people who attended a meeting Sunday at the library, where House DFL leaders briefed residents on the session and sought feedback.

None of the legislators called for a government shutdown, though they hinted a special session could well be in the works if a stalemate between Dayton and GOP Legislature can't be solved.

"In the end, we have to have a balanced budget," said Rep. Nora Slawik, DFL-Maplewood, who noted that any possible government shutdown wouldn't occur until July 1. "It's just a matter of how long it's going to take."

Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, and Greiling, a House Democrat from Roseville, also spoke at the meeting. The trio now represents the nearest House DFL representation to Woodbury after District 56's three Democratic lawmakers - former Sen. Kathy Saltzman, and former Reps. Julie Bunn and Marsha Swails - were voted out of office in November.

Slawik is a former president of Woodbury-Cottage Grove League of Women Voters.

The legislators used Sunday's meeting to object to the House Republican budget, which Greiling said includes a "horrendous" education finance package she said would divert funding from the state's neediest urban districts to other areas of the state. She said that would call on urban districts to raise levies or property taxes in order to keep up.

"All of us should care about that," she said.

Lawmakers were drilled with numerous questions during the hour-long meeting, many of which centered on health-care related issues, education and taxes.

Greiling said Republicans will not entertain any action on Dayton's budget request that calls on income tax hikes on the state's wealthiest earners.

"They just plain, categorically, ruled that out," she said. "They've ruled out compromising on the revenue side."

Slawik said she met last week with Dayton and relayed a question she heard from a constituent - "Is he strong enough" to stand up to the GOP majority?

"He is, but he has not been through this," Slawik said. "Minnesota politics are not for the faint of heart. So it's going to be a rough ending."

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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